Daily Archives: October 16, 2019

17 October, Thursday – Who can understand God?

Oct 17 – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Ignatius (c. 50–107) was a convert from paganism to Christianity. He succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria. He served during persecution of Domitian. During the persecution of Trajan, he was ordered to be taken to Rome to be killed by wild animals. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. He was the first writer to use the term The Catholic Church. He was an apostolic father and a martyr. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Legend says he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 3:21-30

God’s justice that was made known through the Law and the Prophets has now been revealed outside the Law, since it is the same justice of God that comes through faith to everyone, Jew and pagan alike, who believes in Jesus Christ. Both Jew and pagan sinned and forfeited God’s glory, and both are justified through the free gift of his grace by being redeemed in Christ Jesus who was appointed by God to sacrifice his life so as to win reconciliation through faith. In this way God makes his justice known; first, for the past, when sins went unpunished because he held his hand, then, for the present age, by showing positively that he is just, and that he justifies everyone who believes in Jesus.

So what becomes of our boasts? There is no room for them. What sort of law excludes them? The sort of law that tells us what to do? On the contrary, it is the law of faith, since, as we see it, a man is justified by faith and not by doing something the Law tells him to do. Is God the God of Jews alone and not of the pagans too? Of the pagans too, most certainly, since there is only one God.

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Luke 11:47-54

Jesus said:

‘Alas for you who build the tombs of the prophets, the men your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building.

‘And that is why the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation will have to answer for every prophet’s blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary.” Yes, I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.

‘Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.’

When he left the house, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on him and tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say.

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So what becomes of our boasts? There is no room for them.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55:8-9)

The readings today are truly confounding. Let us put aside what we already know, to step into the shoes of all who were present in the scene where Paul preached, or in the presence of Jesus as he denounced the Pharisees and lawyers. How might we feel?

In the letter to the Romans, Paul cautioned them against self-righteousness amongst themselves, whether Jews or pagans. It is not enough just to live within the bounds of the Law, for all have sinned and forfeited God’s glory. We understand this reasoning when we pause long enough to recognise even the minor wrongs we commit against our neighbours through gossip, judgmentalism, lies. It is not enough to be of the same Christian stock or label – for every person’s individual flaws and weaknesses are different. Paul tells us, “…both are justified through the free gift of his grace by being redeemed in Christ Jesus… so as to win reconciliation through faith” (Rm 3:24-25).

We must not be complacent and boast about our salvation simply because we outwardly profess our faith in Christ Jesus. This can become misguided and exclusionary. “What sort of law excludes them? The sort of law that tells us what to do? On the contrary, it is the law of faith, since, as we see it, a man is justified by faith and not by doing something the Law tells him to do…” (Rm 3:27-28)

Only God can look into the hearts of man. Even the holiest of men cannot see into the soul of another, though he may be able to discern it. This is what made Jesus furious as he lambasted the Pharisees and lawyers of the time. He accused them of the same sins as their ancestors, by “taking away the key of knowledge” (Lk 11:52). Jesus was referring to their wrongful gatekeeping of the faith and misrepresentation of the Laws.

Theirs was a love of the law of the Law, and not the the love of Love itself. By their interference, they became the obstacle between their fellow men and God – murdering prophets and apostles ‘between the altar and the sanctuary’. “You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.” (Lk 11:52).

Are there occasions where I have (through my zealousness or judgmentalism) unconsciously interfered in the gift of faith that God was working in someone’s life?

This is a moment for me to pause and contemplate what the words of scripture mean personally for me. It is not only by works; yet, it is not only by faith. Both can be superficial extremes which Jesus denounces. How I am called to act and respond in every moment, to each person, is a unique sensing of God’s Wisdom. God’s grace is always at work within me; may I not neglect the Holy Spirit in my daily life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us to deepen our own spiritual sensing and hide our life with Christ; for even narrower is the gate to heaven for those with spiritual pride. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for this gift of faith I have received by your sacrifice

16 October, Wednesday – Judge not, lest you be judged

16 Oct 2019

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Romans 2:1-11

No matter who you are, if you pass judgement you have no excuse. In judging others you condemn yourself, since you behave no differently from those you judge. We know that God condemns that sort of behaviour impartially: and when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgement? Or are you abusing his abundant goodness, patience and toleration, not realising that this goodness of God is meant to lead you to repentance? Your stubborn refusal to repent is only adding to the anger God will have towards you on that day of anger when his just judgements will be made known. He will repay each one as his works deserve. For those who sought renown and honour and immortality by always doing good there will be eternal life; for the unsubmissive who refused to take truth for their guide and took depravity instead, there will be anger and fury. Pain and suffering will come to every human being who employs himself in evil – Jews first, but Greeks as well; renown, honour and peace will come to everyone who does good – Jews first, but Greeks as well. God has no favourites.

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Luke 11:42-46

The Lord said to the Pharisees:

‘Alas for you Pharisees! You who pay your tithe of mint and rue and all sorts of garden herbs and overlook justice and the love of God! These you should have practised, without leaving the others undone. Alas for you Pharisees who like taking the seats of honour in the synagogues and being greeted obsequiously in the market squares! Alas for you, because you are like the unmarked tombs that men walk on without knowing it!

A lawyer then spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘when you speak like this you insult us too.’

‘Alas for you lawyers also,’ he replied ‘because you load on men burdens that are unendurable, burdens that you yourselves do not move a finger to lift.’

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And when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

I think today’s readings speak for itself. The saying “judge not, lest ye be judged” runs as a central theme in the readings. The Bible speaks often against judging others. Remember the adulterous woman in John 8:3? The Pharisees were ready to stone her for the charges brought against her, but Jesus dared them to condemn her if they were without sin, and no one did. And in Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says not to judge others because we would be measured in the same way. “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and not see the plank in your own eye?”

In today’s gospel reading, St Paul was directing his message to those who believed that they were above other races because they were the chosen race. He puts them in their place by reminding them that God will judge us all according to our thoughts and actions. If we are to judge people a certain way, then we too will be judged by God accordingly. Who are we then to condemn others when Jesus chose not to condemn the adulterous woman?

Today’s readings also do more than just telling us not to judge others; it tells us about our place in God’s eyes. Some time ago, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. He said that “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Putting aside the circumstances surrounding his opinion which was the Syrian attack, Mr. Putin’s piece is a sobering reminder that though we may be rich or poor, young or old, successful or not, where God is concerned, we are all equal. When we were born, we were all equal, and though we may have lived our lives on Earth very differently, when we die, we will also die as equals. When we stand before God on judgment day, we will be equal, and God will mete out His judgment on us all equally. “Here there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, who is very generous with whoever calls on him.” (Rm 10:12)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, you made us all equal in your eyes. Just as you have not condemned the adulterous woman, let us too not condemn our brothers and sisters, acknowledging instead that we are all one in God’s name.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for your mercy Lord, that because you have not judged us, that has given us the chance instead to repent. Thank you for the second chances, and may we too give others a chance, as you have given us.