29 Aug – Memorial of the Beheading of St John the Baptist
Today’s reflection is based on the readings for the Monday in the 22nd week of Ordinary Time.
To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather is was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”
- from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.
Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’
But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.
‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’
When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.
With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another
One of the distinguishing factors that I have noticed between colleagues who are constantly smiling and those who are always frowning is the nature of the language that they use in their conversations. The latter tend to speak to us very unkind words or the tone is very curt; it almost seems that every conversation is a chore and should be avoided at all costs. However, the readings of today remind us of the importance of sharing with others the joys of being a Christian through our words.
Jesus was almost stoned to death in the Gospel reading because He had used words that were a stark reminder of the faithlessness of the Jewish people in the past. Certainly these words did make an impact to them because they could not handle the truth of their past but these words were said with the intent of jolting the Jews to repentance rather than punitive action. The love of God can only fully manifest itself in a believer only if the latter is willing to admit his own shortcomings.
We need to acknowledge our own sinfulness and discover that God is asking us to admit these to Him so that we can replace it with the love that He has promised us. This love will enable us to share with others the joy of being a Christian and will manifest itself through the words that we use and the actions that we carry out.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Lord, let us never run away from the cross that you have given us.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who show us how to bear suffering.
Tue, 30 Aug – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6.9-11; Luke 4:31-37; Hari Raya Puasa
Wed, 31 Aug – Colossians 1:1-8; Luke 4:38-44
Thu, 01 Sep – Colossians 1:9-14; Luke 5:1-11
Fri, 02 Sep – Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 5:33-39
Sat, 03 Sep – Colossians 1:21-23; Luke 6:1-5; Memorial for St Gregory the Great, Pope & Doctor of the Church
Sun, 04 Sep – Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20; Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time