Thoughts To Live By…

Posts Tagged ‘Gospel Reflection

Mk 1:12-15 – The Temptation of Jesus
Sunday Gospel Reflection

The longing and  desire for heaven  or the single indestructible longing for God, for an eternity spent in intimate, blessed communion with him is the deepest desire of human heart. Heaven is “the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC 1024). This is always what we pray for, what we strive for, what we hope for. But there were and will always be temptations, trials and tests on the way that will prevent us, hinder us and steal away from us the heaven that we long for.

The Gospel for today tells of Jesus’ retreat and temptation in the desert and the beginning of his preaching of God’s good news. Today’s Gospel simply tells of Satan tempting Jesus. But Jesus passed the test and overcame the test and temptation.

What is temptation? A temptation is anything than inclines a person to commit sin. It is enticement to evil, seduction to sin and death. Though it is not a sin it is more than trial or test because it lead us to sin. Once we enter into, give in to and submit to, temptation we are already committing sin which will bring us alienation, corruption, death and ultimately hell where Satan reigns and where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth because of it unquenchable fire.

What distinguishes temptation from trial? Trials or tests are necessary for growth while temptations incline us to sin. “No one who is tempted is free to say, “I am being tempted by God.” Surely God, who is beyond the grasp of evil, tempts no one” (Jas 1:13). God tests the heart puts his own in trial (1Th 2, 4) while only Satan tempts them (Lk 22,37; Ap 2, 10; 12,9). Trial is indispensable condition for growth (cf. Lk 8, 13ff), for sturdiness (1 P 1, 6f), for the manifestation of the truth (1 Co 11, 9: the reason for Christian divisions) and humility (1 Co 10, 12). When we overcome trials, temptations we are proven to be steady and strong (subok na matatag at subok na matibay. Thus freed, tried and tested Christian knows how to discern, verify and “try” everything (R 12, 2; E 5, 10). Trial is therefore the condition of the Church which is still to be tested, although she is already pure; stll to be reformed, although she is already glorious.

St. Paul assures us that “God will not let you be tested beyond your strength. Along with the test he will give you a way out of it so that you may be able to endure it” ( 1 Cor 10:13; cf. CCC 2848). In fact St. Paul wrote that we should even boast of our tests/afflictions, knowing that afflictions produce endurance, and endurance, proven virtue (cf. Rom 5:3-5; CCC 2897).

Sources of temptations:

  • Some temptations arise from within ourselves. “The tug and lure of his own passion has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin reaches maturity it begets death” (cf. Jas 1:14).
    • Our passions and emotions incline us to long for attractive gratifications even through doing acts we know are evil.
    • Pride incline us to sin.
    • Imperfection of our very nature are sources of sin more particularly concupiscence and bad habits or vices.
  • We also experience temptations from the world. Persons, places and things can be occasion of sins to us. Even things good in themselves can be incitements in us to seek the attractive goods in unreasonable ways.
  • Faith also recognizes Satan, once an angel, but now hostile to God and to us, as one source of temptation. In his hatred for God, he seeks to drive us toward sinful and self-destructive choices (CCC 394-395).

Consequence of being tempted: slavery to sin, alienation and separation, death and ultimately hell where Satan dwells and where Satan reigns and where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth because of it unquenchable fire.

How do we handle with temptations?

  • Avoid temptations and keep yourself busy. Idleness is the workshop of the devil.
  • Resistance, faith and vigilance. Stay sober and alert because your enemy the Devil is like a prowling lion, waiting for someone to devour. Resist him and solid in your faith.
  • Prayer. In communion with their master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; “only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation” ( cf. Lk 22:40, 46). “Pray that he will not let you be tested beyond your strength” (cf. 1 Cor 10:13). Pray that the Father “lead us not into temptations and allow us to be overcome by it (cf. CCC 2846). Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy…Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.
  • Repentance and conversion. Always return to the Lord with fasting, weeping and mourning. For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness and relenting in punishment.
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Always seek in everything the will of God. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.

Temptations are not themselves sins and no one entirely escape temptation. Hence, be vigilant and pray that God our Father may “lead us not into temptation” or allow us to be overcome by it and “seek it with all our hearts His sufficient grace to overcome temptation and to remain faithful to God (cf. CCC 2848).

Picture: http://www.padrebergamaschi.com/Pets/images/Temptation.jpg

Gospel Reflection: Mt: 11:28

A man approaches a priest and asks: “Please bless me, Father, coz I have so many problems.

My son is a drug addict, my daughter an unwed mother, my wife a gambler.

Priest: Wala bang positive sa buhay mo? (Is there nothing positive about your life?)

Man: Me, Father… HIV positive!

* * *

Of course, that’s still negative. The funny story somehow illustrates how we are beset by a lot of problems.

Jesus in this 14th Sunday gospel invites us: “Come to me all who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

Christ’s words are very timely and consoling, considering our problems today – the rising cost of living (and even cost of dying!), calamities like the recent typhoon “Frank,” holdups, personal and family problems.

* * *

Jesus comes to us as a friend who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great compassion” – a “bridge over troubled waters,” as the song puts it.

He teaches us to cultivate relinquishment, the ability to “let go” of our anxieties and to put ourselves in God’s hands.

* * *

But some cynic might say, “How can I put myself in God’s hands when my creditors are running after me over my two-million peso debt?” Or, should I not worry if I’m on the verge of losing my job due to retrenchment? Or, this lump on my neck is diagnosed as terminal cancer?

These should be causes for worry indeed. But we must distinguish between worry and concern. Worry is an emotional response that is stressful and draining. It is problem-oriented.

* * *

Concern, on the other hand, is a rational and constructive process – and it is solution-oriented. It’s the difference between fear unaccompanied by useful action and the determination to calmly look for a solution.

As regards unpaid debt, I know of some people who through sheer diligence, determination, and financial restraint were able to gradually pay their obligation.

* * *

As regards losing a job, it’s not the end of the road. You can always start again somewhere. As the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.” As long as you’re alive, there’s hope.

When we put ourselves in God’s hands, it does not mean we’re escaping from personal responsibility. It is, as “concern” mean, solution-oriented.

Remember the metaphor Jesus uses in this Sunday gospel about the yoke? In Palestine two oxen are joined together in pulling heavy loads. The two oxen represent God and you sharing the burden.

* * *

It means God helps us but we have also to do our share. Ask yourself: When you have problems, do you present them to the Lord and ask for help? Or do you just keep them to yourself? Do you give in to self-pity and excessive worry, not doing anything to remedy your predicament?

* * *

Once a lady was talking about the secret of her success. She made this striking remark: “I work hard; I do my part then I let God do the rest.” Incidentally, that’s also the principle behind the success of our boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. Notice how he prays hard, kneeling at the ring’s corner before and after the fight. However, he also trains on long and dreary hours, always learning the winning techniques.

That should be our Christian attitude, too. As much as we pray so must we work. “Ora et labora.”

Author: Fr. Luis Beltran, SVD

Sunday Gospel Reflection: Mk 1:7-11
Feast of the Lord’s Baptism

One time three pastors were discussing about bat infestation in their churches. “I got so mad,” said one, “I took a shotgun and fired at them. Some got killed but the majority are still up there.” “I tried pesticide spray,” said the second pastor, “but those damn bats gave birth to new ones.” “I haven’t had any more problems,” said the third pastor.”What did you do?” asked the interested two. “I simply baptized them,” he replied. “I haven’t seen them in church since!”

Indeed, like those bats, after baptism many Christians are never seen in church again. This is what the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines called “unchurched.” “Unchurched” has three categories:

First, the “nominal catholics.” These refer to the catholics in name only or the so-called KBL (Kasal, Binyag, Libing) Christians. Or, as one Bishop described it: Katolikong nakaalala lamang sa Dios tuwing panahon ng Kulog at kidlat, Baha at bagyo, Lahar at lindol. Or, as someone put it, Christians who come to church only three times in their whole lifetime – when they are “hatched, (in Baptsm) matched (in Marriage), dispatched (in Funeral Rite)” … to the cemetery or memorial garden.

Second, the “uninformed and unformed faithful.” These refer to that many baptized Catholic Christians who grow up grossly ignorant of religious instructions and their obligations as Christians and were not formed by Christian values and virtues.

Third, the”uninterested parishioners.” These refer to the majority of Christian parishioners who are indifferent, lukewarm and uninvolved to the mission and goals of the parish. In particular, uninterested to get involved with any program, project and activity of the parish.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus is baptized not because he is a sinner but because he wants to be in solidarity with us especially in our journey towards the Kingdom of God. That he is with us and is one of us. Furthermore, the baptism of Jesus is more of  a revelation of who he is and what his mission should be. As William Barclay writes: “So in the baptism there came to Jesus two certainties–the certainty that he was indeed the chosen One of God, and the certainty that the way in front of him was the way of the Cross.”

As we celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we are reminded of the necessity of baptism in relation to our salvation and the mission entrusted to us when we were baptized in the Lord. Is baptism really necessary? Yes, because baptism is or calls us to:

B – bath of rebirth. Original and actual sins are washed away and the baptized becomes a new creation
A – anointing with the Holy Spirit. The baptized, like Jesus, is anointed as priest, prophet and king.
P – erfection of Charity and Fullness of Christian life when it is no longer I who lives in me but Christ.
T – otal dedication and commitment to live the truth of faith in every moment and aspect of life.
I – nterior repentance and conversion toward new life in Christ.
S – eal of salvation. The baptized is sealed with indelible character that he belongs to Christ and marked to be saved.
M – ission to bear fruits of good works, holiness and evangelization.

St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians reminds us that to glorify God is to be “in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:21). Hence, faith and baptism are joined as preconditions of salvation (Mark 16:16). It is, therefore, fitting and praiseworthy to renew our baptismal promises to love God above all and to reject Satan and all his wickedness.

Useful Articles:

‘Peace’ is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you.” – John 14:27

What we receive from someone’s last will and testament can be a very personal and special expression of his or her love and concern for us. In His will, the Lord left His disciples peace. The traditional Hebrew shalom has a wide range of meaning. It is used as an ordinary salutation. In Scriptures however, it often indicates the well-being of men and women who live in harmony with nature, with themselves, with each other, and with God. It means not only blessing but also rest, glory, riches, salvation, and life. Simply stated, peace, is the fullness of happiness (Lv. 26:6).

By “peace,” Jesus means “shalom,” harmony, a taste of paradise, a foretaste of heaven. This is obviously not the peace that the world gives (Jn 14:27). It is a peace beyond human understanding (Phil 4:7). This shalom-peace is stronger than death and will last forever. It can be produced only by the Holy Spirit (see Gal 5:22). ).  As the gift of Jesus shalom (Greek eirene) stands for salvation which brings the bounty of messianic blessings.

God loves all men and women on earth and gives them the hope of a new era, an era of peace. His love, fully revealed in the Incarnate Son, is the foundation of universal peace. Peace is possible. It only needs to be implored from God as His gift, but it also needs to be built day by day with His help, through works of justice and love.

“All things desire for peace,” St. Augustine tells us. John XXIII expresses a similar universal desire in the first paragraph of his encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963): “All men of every age have most eagerly yearned for peace on earth.” And yet, as look at our world and see situations of un-peace: wars, violence, division, injustice, oppression and exploitation, deteriorating poverty and un-love. “We desire peace and therefore St. Thomas adds, “we desire to obtain what we desire” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, 29, 2). Hence, all men and women of good will have to pursue and work for peace of all. For “peace is either for all or for none” (SRS 26).

As a community of disciples of Jesus Christ, we have the vocation and mission to be sign and instrument of peace in the world and for the world. For the Church, to carry out her evangelizing mission means to work for peace. “For the Catholic faithful, the commitment to build peace and justice is not secondary but essential. It is to be undertaken in openness towards their brothers and sisters of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, towards the followers of other religions, and towards all men of good will” (Pope John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace, issued December 8, 1999).

How can we become peacemaker or builder or bridges of peace?

  • Be at peace with oneself and with God. The heart of peace is the peace of the heart (Pope John Paul II). The words of St. Seraphim is worth recalling to explain this truth: “Acquire inner peace and thousands around you will find liberation.”
  • Be at peace with individuals and groups near or close to you both in hearts, space, and time. Like charity, peace begins at home. It begins with our loved ones, relatives, friends and neighbors. Neighborliness leads to peace. Hence, we are challenged by the Church: “Today there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves the neighbor of  every man, no matter who he is, and if we meet him, to come to his aid  in a positive way, whether he is an aged person abandoned by all, a  foreign worker despised without reason, a refugee, an illegitimate  child wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a starving human being who awakens our conscience by calling to mind the words of  Christ: ‘As you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you  did it to Me.'” (“Gaudium Et Spes,” 27).
  • Be at peace to everyone even to individuals and groups who do evil against you and differ from you in many ways. As St. Paul advises: “Do all you can to live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18).  “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors. This will prove that we are sons and daughters of our heavenly Father” (Mt 5:44-45), do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you, love your enemies, rejoice with those who are joyful, weep with those who weep, live in peace with one another and conquer evil with good (see Rm 12:14-16, 21). Gandhi’s reminder is still relevant and urgent today: “A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye makes the world toothless and blind.” Hence, let us promote peace for all nonviolently and peacefully.
  • Be at peace with the whole creation. Remember ultimate peace is either for the whole creation or none at all.  If we are truly at peace with ourselves, with God, with our neighbor then we should be at peace also with the created world and everything that lives in it. The whole creation will only enjoy ultimate peace when we are at peace with God, the Father and Creator of all. “If man is not at peace with God, neither the earth is at peace” (Pope John Paul II, Message, World Youth Day of Peace 1990).
  • Share to the poor, the needy and the suffering. Poverty and misery breed divisive conflicts. In fact, it is foolish to preach peace to an empty stomach. President Woodrow Wilson once said,”No one can love his neighbor on an empty stomach.” His point is an important one: We are made up soul and body.To address the soul without addressing the body is to ignore  the reality of our human makeup.  The insight of John Locke on this matter is of great importance: “A sound mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy [peaceful] state in this World . . .”
  • Pray for peace. Peace is a gift of God, hence, Christians in particular should pray for peace and for the attainment of the essential elements of peace – justice, love, freedom and truth. As Pope John Paul II writes:

To pray for peace is to pray for justice, for a right ordering of relations within and among nations and peoples. It is to pray for freedom, especially for the religious freedom that is basic human and civil right of every individual. To pray for peace is to seek God’s forgiveness, and to implore the courage to forgive those who trespassed against us (Message, World Day of Peace 2002, no. 14).

The Lord died to give us peace. Receive this gift of peace, pray and pursue it . Help build, bridge and spread peace everywhere. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God” (Mt 5:9).


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