The Liberation of Women Began With Him

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Daily Reflection – 9/20/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)

Reflection

Jewish culture in the first century was decidedly patriarchal. The daily prayers of Jewish men included this prayer of thanksgiving: “Praised be God that he has not created me a woman.” But Jesus defies these expectations in at least four ways, which have implications for us.

First, Jesus refuses to treat women as inferior. Given the decidedly negative cultural view of women in Jesus’ time, the Gospel writers each testify to Jesus’ treating women with respect, frequently responding in ways that reject cultural norms. He recognizes their dignity, their desires and their gifts.While the expression “son of Abraham” was often used to indicate that a male Jew was recognized as bound by covenant to God, women had never been called “daughters of Abraham.” With this title, Jesus recognizes this woman as having equal worth

Second, Jesus refuses to view women as unclean or especially deserving of punishment. Women who were menstruating or persons who had any flow of blood were considered ritually unclean. In this condition, women were not allowed to participate in most religious rituals. Anything or anyone she touched was deemed unclean. Jesus clearly teaches that the one who keeps all the rules is not necessarily the better person. “Her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love” (Luke 8:47).

Third, Jesus steps over expected boundaries between men and women by his acceptance of women as disciples. Of particular interest is the fact that Jesus not only taught women, but some women traveled with him and ministered to him.

Fourth, not only did Jesus have women disciples, but the Gospel writers also assure us that they were prominent recipients of Jesus’ self-revelation. In all of the Gospels, women disciples are the first witnesses to the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene sees Jesus but is not believed (Mark 16:11). In John’s account (20:11-18), she recognizes Jesus when she hears herself called by name, testifying to the close relationship they had. Jesus tells her to go to the other disciples and tell them, “I have seen the Lord.”

The Gospels point us toward including women’s voices and gifts. While we live in a time and culture far different from that of the historical Jesus, his way of welcoming and responding to women has much to teach us.

There is still another verse from Scripture that Jesus used which captures his perspective.” The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened” (Matthew 13:33).

Jesus recognized that women had gifts for discipleship, and he was not afraid to call these women forth. Some women today need to hear that the Church recognizes their “leavening,” and welcomes their creativity and spirituality for the gifts that they can be to the “whole batch” that is our Church and our world.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen

Daily Note

Luke’s Gospel has always been considered the Gospel of women. Indeed, Luke is the one who most records occasions that show the relationship of Jesus with women. However, the novelty, the Good News concerning women, is not simply because of the many citations of their presence around Jesus, but in Jesus’ attitude towards them. Jesus touches them, allows them to touch him, without fear of being contaminated (The difference between Jesus and the masters of the time is that Jesus accepts women as followers and disciples (Lk 8:2-3; 10”39). The liberating force of God, which acts in Jesus, raises women to assume their place of dignity .

 

 

 

Your Faith Has Saved You

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Daily Reflection – 9/19/19

Sacred Scripture

A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”( Luke 7:36-50)

Reflection

There is so much personality insight in this Gospel. We start with the woman.

We don’t know how she knew Jesus. Maybe she had only seen him from a distance and listened to his teaching. However, it happened, the power of his grace had reached through the layers of self-protection that she had erected around her heart and touched her soul. She had finally found someone who truly knew her, who truly valued her the way she had yearned to be valued, and who wanted nothing from her except trust and friendship.

Jesus also reveals himself in this encounter. He shows his full identity in response to this woman’s humble love and faith. No longer could people simply call him a great teacher, or a mighty prophet, or a wonderworker. No, he had publicly forgiven this woman’s sins, something that God alone can do.

How much confidence and peace this conviction would give to our souls if we would simply let it sink in! Jesus is the Lord. He is Lord of history, of life, of good, of circumstances, hopes, and obstacles. And he is my Lord. His Lordship is exercised on my behalf, for the sake of my salvation, to free me from my sins and set me on the path of true love and joy – a path so fulfilling that this fashionable and pleasure-loving woman wept for happiness when she found herself upon it.

Jesus also teaches us how he wants to forgive our sins. But Jesus wants to give us that chance. He wants to make it possible for us to confess our sins and our repentance in a physical, tangible way And he also wants us to be able to receive his forgiveness in a physical, tangible way. Christ’s final words, “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you, go in peace” are some of the most powerful words ever spoken.

There is another dimension to this story and again it deals with another look at Jesus, our Friend and our God. How gently Jesus rebukes and teaches Simon the Pharisee! He doesn’t yell or humiliate him; instead, he simply asks a couple of questions that quietly light up his conscience. This is how he deals with us. Just recall how he has acted in your life up to now – steadily, surely, but very gently and respectfully. And if he does so with us, showing himself to be a true friend, shouldn’t we do the same with the Simons we run across?

 Prayer of The Day

Lord, you know I believe in you, but you also know how shaky my faith can be. Jesus, convince me of your wisdom, your nearness, your greatness. Help me to see your hand at work in all things. Pour your Holy Spirit upon me again, with his gifts of understanding and knowledge. My mind is so caked with the mud of this fallen world! Lord Jesus, be my light

Daily Note

Jesus, you told me to learn from you because you are meek and humble of heart. I want to be a faithful ambassador of your Kingdom. And that means reaching out to those around me with the same gentleness and humility that you always showed. But I need your grace to to help me see how I may be an instrument of your love and forgiveness.

 

 

But Are You Listening With Your Heart ?

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Daily Reflection – 9/18/19

Sacred Scripture

“Then to what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”( Luke 7:31-35)

Reflection

Today, Jesus confirms the hardness of heart of the people of his time, at least, as far as the Pharisees are concerned, so self-assured that nobody can convert them. They do not alter their mind not even before John the Baptist, they do not change either before the Son of Man, Their pride and arrogance are hiding behind these accusations: nobody is to teach them anything; they do not accept God, but they custom-make their own God, a God that would not move them from their convenience, privileges and involvement.
We are also running this risk. How often do we criticize everything: whether the Church says so, or because she has said that, or even when she says just the contrary, and we could just as well find all sort of faults when referring to God or to others. In actual fact, however, and perhaps unconsciously, we want to justify our laziness and lack of ambition for a true conversion, to excuse our own convenience and lack of flexibility.

We cannot expect God to speak to us in ways which we find congenial. He may speak to us through a saint or a sinner. Through a conservative or a liberal. Through a man or a woman – or a young child. Through an old person or a young person. Through an educated or an illiterate person… Through a local person or a foreigner. Through a straight or gay person… Through a saint or a sinner. We have at all times to be ready to listen with an unprejudiced mind and heart.
We must let the Word of God reach our heart and convert us, transforming us with its strength. But first, we must request the gift of humility. Only the humble souls are able to receive the grace of God and, therefore, let Him come close to us, since as “publicans” and “sinners” that we are we need him to heal us.. Woe betide those who claim that they do not need a doctor! The worst for any diseased is to believe he is healthy, because then the sickness will progress and he will never recover his health. We are all sick to death, and only Christ can save us, whether we realize it or not. Let us thank our Savior, and let us welcome him as such!

We should stop and reflect: if our lives have been attentive to listen to Jesus. Have I been attentive to myself? Am I aware of God’s working in my life? If not, we should consider bringing about those changes that will make us worthy and active in working for the Kingdom of God.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, May I open my heart to receive You. May I open my eyes to see You. May I open my ears to listen to your voice calling me. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.

Daily Note

To what shall I compare the men of this generation?” If Jesus were to ask the same question today. How would he describe us? Are we like the spoiled children, who wouldn’t dance at the music, or who wouldn’t cry at a funeral song? The readings of today demand us to be in tune with the call of the Lord, to evaluate and fine-tune ourselves and our activities, in order to be truly members of God’s Kingdom.

 

It’s Always About His Love

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Daily Reflection – 9/17/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.( Luke 7: 11-17)

 Reflection

This Gospel is all about the love of Jesus. He commands a dead man to rise, and he is obeyed. He shows that he is the Lord of life. And yet, when he commands us, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “Do not worry about tomorrow,” or “Follow me,” we resist. Does his Lordship work only on the dead? Hardly. Rather, he refuses to force his way into our hearts; he is Lord, but he is also Love. He makes his Lordship known, and then he invites us to fight under his banner – but there are no mercenaries in his army, only friends who serve the Lord of Love out of love for the Lord.

When he asks us something difficult, we should remember this passage. The same power which raised this dead man to life is at work in his commands to us. In baptism, this power floods our soul with grace through the words of the priest and the sign of water. Every word that Jesus speaks to us has the power to raise us up, to lift us into the kind of life we long to live.

Perhaps we need to pause more often and have a conversation with God. Maybe something like this . . . Lord, I know I have to obey someone in life: either myself, with all my ignorance and limitations, or some other teacher or guru, or the shallow advice of popular culture (which only cares about turning me into a good consumer) – or you. I want to obey you. I choose once again to follow you. Lord Jesus, I believe that you are the way, the truth, and the life. I know that you are with me in every moment of my life, the good moments and the bad ones. You suffer with me, because you know that having to suffer alone would double my pain. Why do I insist on walking alone? Why do I insist on resisting your compassion and comfort and the soothing balm of your Church’s doctrine? Jesus, teach me to bear my cross with you.

 Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, your healing presence brings life and restores us to wholeness of mind, body, and spirit. Speak your word to me and give me renewed hope, strength, and courage to follow you in the midst of life’s sorrows and joys.”

 Daily Note

 God cares for each of us. He looks upon us and blesses us with the presence of the risen Jesus. His charge to us, his challenge for us, is to carry that tenderness and compassion to others, so we can partake in the raising of others to life.

 

 

The Daily Gift of Our Hearts

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Daily Reflection – 9/16/19

Sacred Scripture

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him. When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave. They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me; And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.( Luke 7:1-10)

 Reflection

While a warrior in the service of Rome, this centurion was also a man of peace who had won the people’s esteem for he had contributed significantly to building the local synagogue: the house of prayer and of religious and human formation for the community.

Since he is a pagan, however, he feels unworthy even to present his petition personally to Jesus, and thus sends the elders of the Jews as intermediaries. His compassion, humility and obedience make him ready to receive Christ’s message.

The information he had certainly received is confirmed by Jesus’ action, and so he sends his friends with a message that is at once an act of humility, of faith and of revelation of Jesus’ greatness. His prayer is so beautiful that it deserves repeating  again and again “ Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed”.

By his words the centurion shows he has understood that Jesus’ word is the true word of God, a powerful word, a healing word, a creating word.

Jesus himself acknowledges this insight, this clear vision, which betrays a faith that is much richer and more intense than all the others could even vaguely suspect.

The centurion’s faith also should remind us that our faith is a gift to God, because it is an entrusting of ourselves to him. Faith entails a twofold gift. Above all, it is a gift of God to man, a grace; but it is also our response to God, a giving of ourselves in a trusting openness: 

We should ask our Lord for a simple heart that does not demand human certainty, a heart like that of the centurion in Capernaum. A heart that, because it is open to God’s love, is capable of dedicating itself generously to others with the certainty that faith brings and with the security that hope gives.

Prayer of The Day

Lord God, we turn to you in faith and in doubt, in joy and in anxiety, in hope and in fear, with boldness and with trepidation. No matter how we turn to you, we trust that you are there with us in every moment of every day. Heal our hearts so that we may always reflect you.

 Daily Note

Jesus praised the centurion for his humility and trust and the recognition that he came from God. In order to believe, humility and simplicity of heart are of great importance, since it is in the heart that “we become open to truth and love, where we let them touch us and deeply transform us.” A pure and faithful heart is always humble because it recognizes that its origin is a gift from God.”

 

 

Do You See The Speck?

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Daily Reflection – 9/13/19

Sacred Scripture

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (Luke 6: 39-42)

Reflection

In this Gospel, Jesus used an analogy from his own background as a carpenter. He pointed to the temptation in leaders to make negative, and sometimes rash, moral judgments. It was easier to point and condemn, than to take time to reflect, take stock, and reform.

He begins with a rhetorical question. The blind who need someone else to lead them surely cannot lead another who is blind. What is worse is that if this is attempted both persons will be in trouble. This is why disciples who intend to lead others must first learn to be like the master. If they attempt to lead others without first learning from the master, their teaching will be erroneous.

The second parable reinforces the point made in 6:37-38 about not judging or condemning. Before one can point to the faults of others, introspection is called for. One must realize that often one might be guilty of greater misdeeds than the person to whom one is pointing.

Jesus finished his parables with an image of fruit trees. The quality of fruit and trees were not interchangeable. Nor could someone pick quality fruit from plants not known for such produce. Like fruit, the acts of a person revealed their character. Ultimately, a person would be known by the quantity and quality of their speech. The sheer amount of verbiage did not make someone a good person. And the person who tried to hide their true intentions would soon be found out. Words must match action. Action must match words.

The awareness of the annoying “speck” can lead to the detection of the “log”. In the mind of Jesus there was no substitute for self-knowledge and true inner conversion. The key factor was the heart, the largely unexplored depths of the human spirit.  External behavior, while often the expression of the heart, was always secondary to the heart’s own orientation: its basic option for good or for evil, for God or for self.

If I am to remove the splinter in my brother’s eye, I must see clearly; to see as Christ sees; to love as Christ loves; to forgive as Jesus forgives; stop judging lest I be judged.

 Prayer of The Day

O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke.  Help us always to praise rather than to criticize, to sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.  This we ask for thy name’s sake.  (Prayer of William Barclay, 20th century)

Daily Note

Good trees, like good people, produce good things; decayed trees and corrupt people give forth worthless and evil things. Just as a person’s speech (Sirach) reveals his/her mettle, so too do a person’s deeds mirror the heart and mind that prompted them.

 

 

 

It’s The Inverse of Logic

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Daily Reflection – 9/12/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”(Luke 6: 27-38)

Reflection

These words – at turns variously challenging, confusing, and vexing – aren’t just the heart of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount but the very heart of the Christian gospel. It is the inverse logic of the kingdom of God.

What he means, I think, is simply this: Where else do you find the invitation to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and more? Pretty much nowhere. Why? Because it makes no sense.

Jesus comes, you see, to proclaim a kingdom that is in almost every way different from the kingdom of the world, the kingdom that says you should look out for number one, that you love those who love you and hate those who hate you, that life is meant to be lived, finally and always, quid pro quo.

So after setting out his vision for the Christian life, he does two things.

First, he assails the logic of the kingdom of the world. How can we honor things we do out of our own self-interest? Doing good to those who do good to us, loving those who love us, may be the norm, but it is essentially self-centered and nothing to be admired or emulated. And following in that pattern won’t move us beyond the violence-saturated and scarcity-driven history of the world. We have to find a new way forward.

Second, he offers the only motivation strong enough to withstand the pull of the culture to look out first and foremost for our own interests and invite us to take that new path. He point us, that is, to the very nature of God – the one who is merciful and loving even to those who don’t deserve it.

And that includes us.

The only thing that invites love that transcends self-interest, you see, is being loved. And the one thing that prompts mercy that is not self-serving is receiving mercy. So Jesus directs our attention to God, the one who abounds in compassion, mercy, love, and forgiveness.

And because that’s so hard for us to believe, Jesus ultimately won’t just talk about that love, he’ll show hit, spreading his arms wide upon the cross to offer God’s loving embrace to each and all of us.

 Prayer of The Day

Dear God, immerse us in your mercy that we might be merciful, submerge us in your love that we might be loving, bathe us in your compassion that we might be compassionate. Teach us to love as you loved.

Daily Note

What makes Christians different and what makes Christianity distinct from any other religion?  It is grace — treating others, not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated — with loving-kindness and mercy. God is good to the unjust as well as the just.  His love embraces saint and sinner alike.  God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us.  Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us.  It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit form doing so.  How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. 

Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.  How can we possibly love those who cause us harm and ill-will?  With God all things are possible.  He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit.  His love conquers all, even our hurts, fears, prejudices and griefs.  Do you know the power of Christ’s redeeming love and mercy?