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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-30 Thursday 3rd Week of Easter

Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 66; John 6:44-51
Jesus said yesterday whoever comes to me will never be hungry. Today’s Gospel tells us how to come to Jesus. He said: no one can come to me unless drawn by my Father who sent me. Coming to Jesus is a grace. It is a gift and not a reward. It is the Father who draws us to Jesus. That desire to know God is not from us, but it is a gift from God. Jesus says it is written in the prophets: “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Coming to Jesus is possible only when we:
  1. Hear the Father. This implies we listen to what the Father says. We do not listen to what news commentators say or what false prophets say. We listen to the Father through Jesus.
  2. Learn from the Father. It is not enough to hear what the Father says. We need to learn what he says. This means we need to reflect, to digest and make it our own, to let is seep into our lives so we live it. Obedience is the result of learning from the Father. It is accepting the teaching of the Father through Jesus, even if it is difficult, even if I do not agree with it.
This is what the First Reading shows us. An angel told Philip to go down from Jerusalem to Gaza. Without knowing why, Philip obeyed. This is the first mark of someone who hears and learns from the Father: obedience. When Philip say the Ethiopian, the Spirit told him to approach the Ethiopian. So Philip did and began a conversation with the Ethiopian and explained the Scripture the Ethiopian was reading. The Ethiopian heard the teaching and learned from it, which him to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Learning from the Father shows us who Jesus is: the Son of God. It is to believe that what Jesus says is true.
So when Jesus continues and says Very truly, I tell you, we know he speaks on his own authority and we need to hear and learn. And when he says whoever believes has eternal life this means we need to believe, to trust, to accept everything he says. So when he says I am the bread of life… this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die he means we need to eat this bread of life. Today’s Gospel Reading ends with: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Jesus identifies himself as the LIVING bread from heaven. Then he says whoever eats of this bread will live forever. He speaks of eating the bread to live forever. Now comes the key statement: and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
The question now is: if Jesus refers to himself as the Living bread we have to eat, then he will not have to give another bread. Yet he said the bread that I will give.
This means there is another form of bread he is giving. Jesus is literally, giving another Bread which is his flesh. This proves the Bread Jesus refers here is the Bread we receive in Holy Communion. It IS the Bread of Life, the Living Bread, it is the FLESH of Jesus! If Jesus meant this figuratively, he would not have said he will give THE BREAD. But here, he clearly said, on his own authority, he will give THE BREAD for the life of the world, is MY FLESH.
The Bread we receive and adore IS the Jesus himself! This is why we need to receive it as a gift from the Father. When it comes to our relationship with God, many think it is a right. If I think reception of Holy Communion is a right, then I have to repent seriously. If I think I can receive communion in the state of mortal sin, I need to repent quickly. Jesus said, we come to him when the Father draws us to Jesus. How can I come to Jesus when I have rejected him? I cannot receive the bread of life if I reject God, because I am dead! Just as medicine has no effect on a corpse, receiving the Body of Jesus in the state of mortal sin will not do me good.
Today, the Father is drawing you to Jesus. Come to Jesus so he can raise you up. If you have received Jesus in a state of mortal sin, repent and turn back to Jesus. There is no sin Jesus cannot forgive. Turn back to him, go to confession if you can, even in this state of lock down.
Lord Jesus, your Father has drawn me to you and here I am. I want to hear your Father’s voice. I want to learn from the Father so I can come to you. I have rejected you and disrespected your Body. I have neglected you for a long time. Yet Lord, you said, you will not cast out those who come to you. Here I am. Take me and heal me. Forgive me and make me whole. In Jesus’ name I pray.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-23 Thursday 2nd Week of Easter

Acts 5:27-33; Psalm 34; John 3:31-36
The recurring theme of today’s reading is obedience, not to human authority BUT to the Son. Jesus said at the end of the Gospel reading today: whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. Jesus lays it down plain and simple: believe in him and have eternal life, disobey him and deal with God’s wrath. With this, Jesus also defines what believing in him means: obeying him. When we obey him, we have eternal life. When we disobey, our life ends. When we disobey, we sin against God, we reject him.
Psalm 104:29 tells us: if you turn away your face, they shall be troubled. You shall take away their breath, and they shall fail, and shall return to their dust. You shall send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. The simple truth is when we reject God, he turns away from us and we will not have peace because by turning away from us, he takes away our life. It is never God’s will for us to die, because he is the God of life. But when we reject him, he respects that choice and turns away. Some may ask, but why would a loving God turn away from me? The answer is God loves us so much, he respects our free will. God will not do something for us, if we do not give him permission to do so. He will not enter our lives if we do not allow him. Before his Son entered creation, God had to ask a young girl for permission to do so. It was only when this young girl agreed, that the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and the Son entered her womb.
This is something many today do not understand. Many want peace, many want to go to heaven. But they do not want God in their life, in fact, a lot of them reject God. So how can they have peace or how can they have life when they reject the God of Peace and the God of Life?
The only way to have peace is to be reconciled with the God of Peace. The only way to have meaning in life is to be reconciled with the God of Life. God will not save us without our permission. Just like Mary, who gave permission to God to enter her womb, we must allow him to enter our lives. This happens when we turn back to him. Peter said in the First Reading: God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the Leader and Savior who forgives our sins. Peter continues in the First Reading: we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him. Repentance is not only confessing our sins. It is turning back to God AND obeying him, because it is only by obeying Jesus that we receive the Holy Spirit who gives life and renews our life just as he renews the face of the earth.
The Responsorial Psalm says: The Lord is near to the broken hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all. Are you broken hearted? Are you crushed in spirit? Are you troubled and overwhelmed by the current situation, worried perhaps of what will happen in the next few months or tomorrow!
The Lord is calling you, today to come to him and obey him. Open your heart to him because the Psalm today says, the Lord hears the cry of the poor. If you have given up hope, if there is nothing left for you, you are this poor, and the Lord hears your cry. Come to him and cry out to him. He hears you. He wants to give you new life. If today, you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.
Lord, my heart breaks. My spirit is crushed. I am overwhelmed. There is no one or nothing I can trust. In desperation, perhaps, I come to you. And I allow you to enter my life, even if I rejected you for a long time. I may not know you Lord, yet, I hold on to your Word. Show me who you are. I give you permission to take my life and renew it with your Holy Spirit. Forgive me my sins. I reject them in the name of Jesus. I want to follow you Lord. Show me the way.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-11 Easter Vigil

Genesis 1:1-2:2; Psalm 104; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16; Exodus 14:15-31, 15:20, 1; Exodus 15; Isaiah 54:5-14; Psalm 30; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12; Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4.4; Psalm 19; Ezekiel 36:16-17, 18-28; Psalm 42-43; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 118; Matthew 28:1-10

Monday, April 6, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-06 Monday of Holy Week

Isaiah 42:1-7; Psalm 27; John 12:1-11
The words of the First reading show us who Jesus is: he is God’s servant, whom God upholds, God’s chosen, and in whom God’s soul delights. Towards the end of the First Reading also, God tells his servant: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you. Yet, in a few days from now, Jesus will be crucified and will die.
Jesus knows he will die in a few days which is why he told Judas to let Mary alone when she poured out an expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. Just to give an idea of how expensive that is, one denarius is a day’s wage. Putting this in today’s terms, a day’s wage, assuming $15/hr times 8 hrs/day for 300 days will give $36,000. Mary poured out perfume costing $36,000 in modern terms. This is why Judas felt bad about it.
The question is: Why would God allow his faithful servant whom his soul delights, his servant whom he gives as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, who opened the eyes of the blind, freed prisoners, give light to those in darkness, to be killed? It is not that God does not have the power to stop evil. The First Reading tells us he gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it. He could just withdraw breath from the people and Jesus would not have to die.
God HAS the power to stop evil, but he does not, because he brings out something infinitely better than what the evil has destroyed. In this case, the death of Jesus leads to his resurrection, which fulfills God’s plan of redeeming us from our sins, and giving us power to be his adopted children.
The Responsorial Psalm sums this up: the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? God defends us and protects us. Even when Jesus was suffering and dying on the Cross, God is saving him and protecting him. How you say? By dying, Jesus rose from the dead and through his death, he destroyed death because he will not die again!
Which is why, when we are in the midst of uncertainties, of darkness or despair, when we trust Jesus, we have confidence to say, even to boast, whom shall I fear, of whom shall I be afraid. Jesus defeats all our enemies. Even when we are surrounded by our enemies, we will not be afraid because we believe we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. The psalm ends Wait for the Lord: Be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.
This is very applicable to our situation today. Around us is this virus that can destroy us. It assaults us, unseen. As we take prudent steps to prevent this virus from infecting us and our loved one, we must remember, our safety is not in our actions. But our safety is in the Lord. For those who are affected by this situation, we remind ourselves, that when we turn to the Lord, we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. God will deliver us from our situation, whatever it may be. Wait for the Lord: be strong, let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord. Do not be afraid. Call on the Lord and he will hear your prayer.
Lord, when things seem dark, when you seem to be absent in my life, in my situation, remind me that you are here with me always and you will never abandon me.