GOD'S WORD IN DAILY LIFE

28 October/Thursday/ Simon and Jude, Apostles - Feast

Eph 2,19-22/Psa 19,2-3.4-5/Luke 6,12-16

By Most Rev. Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD

 

First Reading   Ephesians 2:19-22

In Christ you are no longer aliens, but citizens like us

 

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 18(19):2-5

 

Their word goes forth through all the earth.

 

The heavens proclaim the glory of God,

    and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands.

Day unto day takes up the story

    and night unto night makes known the message.

 

No speech, no word, no voice is heard

    yet their span extends through all the earth,

    their words to the utmost bounds of the world.

 

Gospel Acclamation  cf. Te Deum

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

We praise you, O God,

we acknowledge you to be the Lord.

The glorious company of the apostles praise you, O Lord.

Alleluia!

 

Gospel  Luke 6:12-16

Jesus chooses his twelve apostles

 

Jesus went out into the hills to pray, and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When the day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

 

Reflection

The readings of today are in line with the celebration of the feast of the apostles Simon and Jude. The readings do not say anything in particular about the two apostles. The Gospel Reading makes no mention of Jude but names Simon called the Zealot. Information about these two apostles comes from other traditions handed down to us by the early Christians. We know that Simon was born in Cana. Both the Gospel of Matthew and Mark use the name Thaddaeus instead of Jude for the second apostle we celebrate today. The lack of ample information about these two apostles allows us to focus on their general role as apostles.

The diverse origins, professions, and characters of the apostles make each of them unique in the mosaic that finally offers us the indications of what it means to be called and sent. The Gospel Reading makes it clear that Jesus spent some time in prayer before selecting the twelve apostles from the group of disciples. This shows that the choice was not casual but one that was guided by a time of discernment and prayer. We may not know what led Jesus to choose these particular people but their diversity reflects the variety that should characterize the Church and in fact, every Christian community.

Looking at the apostles, we realize that unity in diversity is a characteristic mark of the Church. We may all be different from many points of view but we are called to work for the common goal of witnessing to Christ and proclaiming the kingdom of God to all peoples without distinction. Our diversity should be a valuable resource and not an impediment to the unity of the Church. Unfortunately, in the name of uniformity, we have the tendency to force people to behave in the same way. We tend to think that what we do and the way in which we do it is the one and only way. When others think differently or propose other ways of doing the same thing, we feel threatened. In reaction, we seek to bring them in line with our way of thinking. Jesus was able to work with a Zealot and a tax collector who under normal circumstances were of divergent points of view. We should also learn to work for unity despite our divergent opinions and inclinations. In this way, we witness to the universal character of the kingdom of God.

 

GOD'S WORD IN DAILY LIFE

27 October/Wednesday/30th Week in Ordinary Time,  

Rom 8,26-30/Psa 13,4-5.6/Luke 13,22-30

By Most Rev. Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD

 

First Reading: Romans 8:26-30

The Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words

 

The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.

We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

 

Responsorial Psalm                                                                                  Psalm 12(13):4-6

 

Lord, I trust in your mercy.

 

Look at me, answer me, Lord my God!

    Give light to my eyes lest I fall asleep in death,

lest my enemy say: ‘I have overcome him’;

    lest my foes rejoice to see my fall.

 

As for me, I trust in your merciful love.

    Let my heart rejoice in your saving help.

Let me sing to the Lord for his goodness to me,

    singing psalms to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

 

Gospel Acclamation: John 14:6

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord;

No one can come to the Father except through me.

Alleluia!

 

Gospel: Luke 13:22-30

The last shall be first and the first last

 

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

 

Reflection

The question that Jesus was asked at the beginning of the Gospel Reading was occasioned by the debate among the Jews about the numbers that would be saved. More than just numbers, it was a question of whether both Jews and Gentiles would be saved. The traditional Jewish belief was that only Jews would be saved because they are the only ones who have the God of Israel as their God. Some of the prophets, like Isaiah and Zechariah, pointed out that the God of Israel also cared for non-Israelites. These prophets emphasized that peoples of all nations would bring their sacrifices to Jerusalem, thus they would partake in salvation by God.

It is remarkable that the response of Jesus did not address directly the question of how many would be saved. He preferred to make an urgent appeal to personal responsibility. He exhorted each one to try and enter by the narrow gate. It is not easy to pass through a narrow gate. It demands a lot of slimming down to fit into the gate. In terms of human behaviour, this requires a lot of sacrifices or doing away with many pleasures that do not conform to the demands of God.

We discover what we have to avoid in life in order to enter through the narrow gate by reading the Scriptures. The same Scriptures indicate what we should do in order to pass through the narrow gate. In the face of the demands of the exhortation, we have to say that it all depends on the individual. Each of us is personally responsible for the way we live our lives. If in the end we are not saved, we cannot blame anyone because we are the ones responsible for our salvation. We should take to heart the words of Paul in the First Reading. The assurance that the Spirit comes to our help in our weakness should urge us to pray to God for him to send us the Spirit. We pray for the assistance of the Spirit to help us undergo the exercises that would guarantee our salvation.

 

GOD'S WORD IN DAILY LIFE

25 October/ Monday/30th Week in Ordinary Time,   

Rom 8,12-17/Psa 68,2.4.6-7.20-21/Luke 13,10-17

By Most rev. Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD

 

First Reading: Romans 8:12-17

The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God

 

My brothers, there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.

Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God. And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 67(68):2,4,6-7,20-21

 

This God of ours is a God who saves.

 

Let God arise, let his foes be scattered.

    Let those who hate him flee before him.

But the just shall rejoice at the presence of God,

    they shall exult and dance for joy.

 

Father of the orphan, defender of the widow,

    such is God in his holy place.

God gives the lonely a home to live in;

    he leads the prisoners forth into freedom.

 

May the Lord be blessed day after day.

    He bears our burdens, God our saviour.

This God of ours is a God who saves.

    The Lord our God holds the keys of death.

 

Gospel Acclamation                                                                                             John 17:17

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

Your word is truth, O Lord:

consecrate us in the truth.

Alleluia!

 

Gospel: Luke 13:10-17

Was it not right to untie this woman's bonds on the Sabbath day?

 

One Sabbath day Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are rid of your infirmity and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.

But the synagogue official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, and he addressed the people present. ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the Sabbath.’ But the Lord answered him. ‘Hypocrites!’ he said ‘Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the Sabbath and take it out for watering? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the Sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked.

 

Reflection

The Gospel Reading exposes one of the controversies between Jesus and those who felt in themselves the duty to be custodians of Jewish laws. In the present episode, it is a question of what can be done legally on the Sabbath. The synagogue official in the story considered healing a person to be work therefore it could not be permitted on the Sabbath. This is why he reminded the people that there are six days within the week that they should come to the synagogue to be healed. They should not break the Sabbath rule by seeking healing on the only day on which such an activity was not permitted by the law.

Jesus was of a contrary opinion as he looked at healing from a different perspective. For him, to liberate a person from an infirmity was life-giving so it cannot be prohibited on any day, not even on the Sabbath. Jesus used the example of what is done for animals on the Sabbath to buttress his argumentation. The needs of animals are met on the Sabbath without breaking the law so he does not see why the needs of human beings should not be equally met. Such services would bring relief to the person so the positive result should be the driving force in doing what one does on the Sabbath. In the First Reading, Paul stresses that the spirit we have received is not the spirit of slaves; it is the spirit of sons, thus of free or liberated people. We should therefore be careful not to bind ourselves with laws that would enslave us.

Sometimes we can be so legalistic that we forget about the values and the needs of the human person. We easily allow the law to rule our actions instead of putting the human person in the first place. Whatever is life-saving should have priority over any law. More than this, we need to encourage our lawmakers to give a place of primacy to the human person in their legislation. Anything to the contrary would be inhuman and fail to serve the human society. There are certain services that require people to work on the day of rest. We cannot prevent people from rendering such services for the good of humanity simply because of a law. We have to make sure that the law serves the human person instead of enslaving him/her. Jesus came to liberate us from all bondage so we should promote and sustain the freedom he has won for us with his blood.

GOD'S WORD IN DAILY LIFE

26 October/Tuesday/30th Week in Ordinary Time,   

Rom 8,18-25/Psa 126,1-2.2-3.4-5.6/Luke 13,18-21

By Most Rev. Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD

 

First Reading:  Romans 8:18-25

The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons

 

I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free. For we must be content to hope that we shall be saved – our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were – but, as I say, we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience.

 

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 125(126)

 

What marvels the Lord worked for us.

 

When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,

    it seemed like a dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

    on our lips there were songs.

 

The heathens themselves said: ‘What marvels

    the Lord worked for them!’

What marvels the Lord worked for us!

    Indeed we were glad.

 

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage

    as streams in dry land.

Those who are sowing in tears

    will sing when they reap.

 

They go out, they go out, full of tears,

    carrying seed for the sowing:

they come back, they come back, full of song,

    carrying their sheaves.

 

Gospel Acclamation: John 15:15

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

I call you friends, says the Lord,

because I have made known to you

everything I have learnt from my Father.

Alleluia!

 

Gospel: Luke 13:18-21

The kingdom of God is like the yeast that leavened three measures of flour

 

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said was, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

 

Reflection

The First Reading is very important in Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is the climax of Rom 6-8 and indeed of Rom 1,18-8,30. It, therefore, calls for greater attention as it helps us enter into one of the central messages of Paul in the letter. A short reflection, as we do now, cannot unfold the richness of these verses. These verses highlight the final reversal of the failure of humanity and the climax of his restoration. Paul presents the whole of creation as a single process of childbirth. It is a groaning to be freed from the dominion of sin and set free to be children of God.

Paul’s presentation carries a wide sense of universality. He does not limit himself to the salvation of Jews together with Gentiles. He sees salvation as covering all of creation, thus it is not only humanity that is saved in Christ. All creation is saved in him thus restoring the initial glory of creation. His words are very encouraging, especially for all who look forward to the restoration of all things in Christ. Paul’s concept of salvation helps us to contemplate the oneness of creation that we find reflected in the Genesis story of creation. The harmony of creation before the emergence of sin is only restored when we think of creation in a more comprehensive way. Limiting our concept of salvation to only humanity does not help us appreciate the fullness of the plan of God in Jesus Christ.

In contemplating the restoration of all things in Christ, we may be misled to think of great upheaval on earth. The Gospel Reading offers us an insight into how God operates for the realization of the kingdom which is the place of ultimate restoration. The mustard seed is a very small seed so we may not consider it as important among the variety of seeds in the world. Despite its insignificant nature, when given the opportunity, it grows into a tree offering shelter to the birds of the air. The catalyst that operates for the restoration of all creation is not to be seen in terms of great upheavals but the insignificant-looking things of everyday life. When we perform our ordinary duties to the best of our abilities, we cooperate with God in the restoration of creation. We need the grace to see and believe that our little and insignificant actions are important in building God’s kingdom in our midst.

 

GOD'S WORD IN DAILY LIFE

24 October/Sunday/30th Sunday of Year B

Jer 31,7-9/Psa 126,1-2a.2b-3.4-5.6/Heb 5,1-6/Mark 10,46-52

By Most Rev. Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD

 

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-9

I will guide them by a smooth path where they will not stumble

 

The Lord says this:

Shout with joy for Jacob!

Hail the chief of nations!

Proclaim! Praise! Shout:

‘The Lord has saved his people,

the remnant of Israel!’

See, I will bring them back

from the land of the North

and gather them from the far ends of earth;

all of them: the blind and the lame,

women with child, women in labour:

a great company returning here.

 

They had left in tears,

I will comfort them as I lead them back;

I will guide them to streams of water,

by a smooth path where they will not stumble.

For I am a father to Israel,

and Ephraim is my first-born son.

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 125(126)

 

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

 

When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,

    it seemed like a dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

    on our lips there were songs.

 

The heathens themselves said: ‘What marvels

    the Lord worked for them!’

What marvels the Lord worked for us!

    Indeed we were glad.

 

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage

    as streams in dry land.

Those who are sowing in tears

    will sing when they reap.

 

They go out, they go out, full of tears,

    carrying seed for the sowing:

they come back, they come back, full of song,

    carrying their sheaves.

 

Second Reading:Hebrews 5:1-6

'You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever'

 

Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins; and so he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitations of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ give himself the glory of becoming high priest, but he had it from the one who said to him: You are my son, today I have become your father, and in another text: You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

 

Gospel Acclamation: John 8:12

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

I am the light of the world, says the Lord;

anyone who follows me will have the light of life.

Alleluia!

 

Gospel:  Mark 10:46-52

Go; your faith has saved you

 

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

 

Reflection

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and passes through the city of Jericho, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. The large crowd following him as he moved along goes to confirm that wherever he went, Jesus attracted people to himself. These people came either to listen to his teaching or to seek healing for themselves or the people they brought to him. The characterization of Bartimaeus is very significant for the story. He is blind so his blindness may have impeded him from doing any work to sustain himself. He took to begging, sitting along the road that led to Jerusalem. Many pilgrims and merchants might have used this road frequently, thus offering Bartimaeus the opportunity to receive some alms from pious Jews who plied the road.

The encounter with Jesus was to make a difference in the life of Bartimaeus. Upon hearing that Jesus was passing by, Bartimaeus recognized him as “Son of David” and sought his help. We are not told how Bartimaeus got to know that Jesus of Nazareth was “Son of David”. Some biblical scholars suggest that the title was in reference to the identification with Solomon who was known for his healing powers. In this case, the use of the title would mean that Bartimaeus sensed the advent of the kingdom of God in Jesus who approached him. In Jesus, God would restore all things which include the giving of sight to the blind. This reminds us of the proclamation of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth that he has come to give sight to the blind and liberty to captives (Luke 4, 18-19). The cry of Bartimaeus was very specific. He wanted Jesus to have pity on him which in effect is a request for healing.

The use of the expression “Son of David” and the request for Jesus to have pity on him go to emphasise the faith of Bartimaeus in Jesus. In contrast to the expression of faith of Bartimaeus, we find the reaction of those who were accompanying Jesus. They thought Bartimaeus was a nuisance and they tried to silence him. How often some of us also behave in similar ways like the people who tried to prevent Bartimaeus from making his request? We put forth our personal criteria about who is worthy to approach Jesus and we make ourselves judges over others.

The persistence of Bartimaeus in making his voice heard paid off as Jesus responded to his cry for help. We also need to learn to cry out without ceasing so that the Lord may hear us and come to our aid. At times, we easily give up on our supplication when we meet some resistance from others or when the Lord seems not to hear us. Bartimaeus teaches us that perseverance can help us attain what we look for in Jesus. The request of Jesus to call Bartimaeus to himself is not only a positive response to his cry for help but also for the recognition of his person. The change of attitude of the crowd is worth noting here as it reveals the inconsistency of the crowd. Those who found Bartimaeus a nuisance a moment ago, now encourage him to get up and go to Jesus. The invitation of Jesus to Bartimaeus to come over to him drew more sympathy from the crowd who now identify with him. Thanks to Jesus, Bartimaeus is worth consideration and assistance.

This change of attitude betrays the biased way in which at times we react toward people, especially the poor of society. Jesus does not make such distinctions as he rather seeks to give recognition to those who are rejected by human society. The Christian community should be a safe haven for those who feel rejected and ignored. The Christian community should be a place where the poor and needy feel respected and given dignity. When we are able to act in this way, we acknowledge Christ in our midst and he uses us to manifest his love and care to those rejected by human society. We pray for the courage to go out of our way to show the path to true recognition of the value of each human person.  

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