“Come, and I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Rev 21:9b)
The Church is the body of Christ and Christ is the head. The Church is also called the bride of Christ and Christ her spouse. Christ loves His church and the church is obedient to Christ. The Church and Christ are faithful to each other. When the Church is suffering, Christ himself is suffering. When Saul was persecuting the Church, Jesus asked “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Act 9:4b).
Looking at the institution of marriage we know that a husband and wife are made for each other and they complement each other. They are helpmates loving each other, sharing and caring and have to be faithful to each other in all ways. However we know it is always not so. The CCC:400, reminds us that the union of man and woman is subject to tensions, their relationship may be marked by selfishness, jealousy and domination of one party and oppression of the other. Today we fail to understand the real meaning of marriage, which is the total giving of oneself to the other. Today, the emphasis is on the physical union alone and that too for one’s own selfish fulfilment. Whereas God meant the physical union to be a selfless giving of oneself out of deep love, to one’s spouse.
St. Paul compares the relationship between husband and wife to that of Christ and the Church. “ Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord…husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph5:22,25)
Throughout the old testament, prophets compare the relationship between God and His chosen people to that of husband and wife. “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name;” (Is 54:5a). “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Is 62:5)
Since God is pure spirit, this relationship is spiritual in nature. This is a spiritual marriage. There should be spiritual union between God and His people by faithful acts and longing for each other. God is always faithful, but we know that the Israelites broke the commandments again and again, worshipped other gods, indulged in idolatry, and committed various abominations. Prophets, in the scriptures even compare this behavior of people to that of a prostitute.
In Hosea Ch.2, God calls Israel a faithless wife. But God repeatedly calls them back to show mercy and remain in faithfulness. “And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.” (Hos 2:19-20).
Worldly pleasures will make us faithless to Christ. Are we longing for Christ, thirsting for him, keeping the commandments, spending enough time in prayer to be in union with him and are we faithful to his teachings? Only then, will we be in union with him when he comes into our hearts in Holy Communion and this marriage will continue in heaven for all eternity.
Many Catholics feel that their religious obligation is over by just attending mass. However, we must understand that Sabbath is for whole day and just attending mass is not enough.
God commands; “You shall keep my Sabbath, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.” (Ex 31:13). During the six days of work we pray, read the scriptures and some of us attend daily mass. However, we are not able to spend more time in prayer. Sunday can be the day when we can make up for this. Sunday can be a day of sanctification. We can examine our life; retrospect about the past six days, examine whether we have got closer to God or whether we are drifting away. We must spend long hours in prayer, read the scriptures and other spiritual books and do other spiritual activities and pious deeds.
“For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.” (Ex 20:11). God Himself rested on the seventh day and set us an example. God takes delight in His creation; and on the seventh day, we are called to take delight in the Lord for His marvelous works and praise and thank Him.
However, most of us are busy with picnics and parties on Sundays, or visiting shopping malls. We catch up with household chores, visit friends or go to the movies. We should not be slaves to work and enjoyment, but put aside Sunday for God. In spite of indulging in all fun activities, at the end of the day, many feel discontent, empty, and sad. The Holy Bible makes great promises of meeting all our needs when we keep the entire Sabbath day holy. “If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth the LORD has spoken.” (Is 58:13-14)
For Jews observance of Sabbath was so strict that; “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in plowing time and in harvest time you shall rest.” (Ex 34:21). “You shall kindle no fire in all your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” (Ex 35:3)
The church teaches us in CCC 2186: Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time to care for their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.
Let us take delight in the Lord and He will take delight in us.
By Noel Fernandes
“For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is 56:7). Church is a place where people of many faiths come and pray, especially in the morning when they begin the day and in the evening, when they end the day. Some people come to seek favours while others for the joy of praising and thanking God.
“I have consecrated this house that you have built to put my name there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all the time.” (1Kgs 9:3b). We know we can pray from anywhere, anytime. But the Church is a place where His presence is special and in the tabernacle, His presence is real.
David said; “O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.” (Ps 26:8). When David was in the palace, he committed adultery. He then realised that he should not be in the palace for long. He started spending a lot of time in the presence of the Lord praising Him. “In all that David did he gave thanks to the Holy One, the Most High, proclaiming his glory; he sang praise with all his heart, and he loved his Maker.” (Sir 47:8)
“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? (Ps 42:1-2). Like David, we must also thirst for God, we must long to behold the face of God. Our city is blessed with many ‘Adoration Chapels’ where we can experience the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, where we can behold His face. He is waiting for us. But we should have the thirst to visit Him and behold His face.
There is no doubt that spending time in the presence of the Lord can bring immense joy, satisfaction and blessing. We must as often as we can, visit a church or chapel and pray and intercede for the whole world instead of whiling away time watching television or wasting time with gadgets like the mobile phone or spending time on the internet or even gossiping. The Psalmist says; “One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” (Ps 27:4). “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God…. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.” (Ps 84:1-2,4). “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps 84:10)
And when we are in church we must remember that we are in the holy presence of God. Every minute must be spent in worship and prayer. Our wholehearted attention must be on the Lord. We must not be distracted by other things or people. We must also teach our children to be quite in church focusing on God alone. We must teach them to bow down, to genuflect and to show utmost reverence while in church because it is the dwelling place of our Eternal King, our God; “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.” (Ps 100:4a)
By nature, a mother always loves her children and is concerned about them, be it their meals, studies, material needs or spiritual matters. She has a compassionate heart for her children. She has carried them in her womb for nine months and fed them with her milk and she loves them very dearly. She is always ready to make sacrifices for them. This is true of human love, but God’s love goes beyond human love because He is our Creator.
The Holy Bible says: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Is 49:15). It is very difficult for a mother to forget the nursing child because when the child is born, mother’s breasts start producing milk. The child has to be fed regularly. If she does not feed the baby at frequent intervals, she feels uneasy and milk will even overflow. A mother who has to go out to work sometimes expresses the milk, stores it in a bottle to feed her child. So it is very difficult for the mother to ever forget her nursing child.
The Bible says; “even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” In this modern era, we do see cruel mothers who stop breast feeding the child within two months to maintain their beauty. Some mothers may even neglect their children because of stress at the workplace, relationship issues in the family and other pressures of modern day life. And we do see many children feel they have not received love from their mothers. But, God our Creator says, “I will never forget you.” He loves us more than we love ourselves and can compensate for all missed love.
God is the source of inspiration behind every bit of love we have received from our family and others. He loves us every moment of our life unconditionally. “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them, I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks; I bent down to them and fed them.” (Hos 11:3-4)
Today many people feel lonely in their old age. Our God is a true friend upon whom we can depend even in our old age. His love for us is constant. We need to realize His loving presence near us. “Listen to me, O house Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, even when you turn grey I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” (Is 46:3-4)
God loves us very much. But we must make an effort to receive His love by being in His presence by constant prayer. “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Is 66:13). His love surpasses all human love including a mother’s love.
God gave us the Ten Commandments through Moses. The summary of the Ten Commandments is love of God and love of neighbor. The Bible says; “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” (Deut 6:4-7).
God while asking Joshua to take charge of leading the Israelites to the promised land, tells him to make all efforts to keep the commandments without fail so that the protection and guidance of God may continue with him. “This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.” (Jos 1:8)
We know, that time and again the Israelites tried to break the law and also tried to interpret it to their advantage. God sends many prophets and explains to them how they were violating the commandments. And these Ten Commandments have given rise to more than 700 precepts. Violation of these commandments incurs serious consequences. Bible says; “O that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your prosperity would have been like a river, and your success like the waves of the sea.” (Is 48:18)
Jesus makes it very clear, how important it is to keep the commandments. Jesus says; “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:17-19)
Some people think that we need not follow the law since we are people of the New Testament. The law was given by God and cannot be annulled. However, in the incident of a woman caught in adultery, we see that in the Old Testament treatment to this offence is stoning to death, but in the New Testament treatment is forgiveness and mercy by the grace of Jesus. St. Paul explains this; “Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin… So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.” (Rom 7:7b,12) “Yet, we know that a person is justified not by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” (Gal 2:16a). Hence we need the grace of Jesus not to commit sin, and we are saved by the merits of Jesus.
If we love God, then we will make efforts to read the Bible, know the commandments and keep them; “For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And the commandments are not burdensome.” (1 Jn 5:3)
Jesus promises; “If you love me, you will keep my commandments… and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (Jn 14:15,23b). If we keep the commandments, then our heart becomes the abode of the triune God.
The second beatitude is “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:4) This beatitude follows the previous beatitude. Once we have poverty in spirit and recognize that everything we have is a blessing from God, then we also realize our lowliness as sinners before God.
In this world, we see people weeping, crying and mourning for various reasons expressing their sorrow. Mourning is the highest expression of sorrow. Some mourn due to prolonged sickness, some due to bad habits of children / life partner, some due to death in the family, some due unexpected tragedies etc., None of these mourning are going to help us or bring blessings. There is only one kind of mourning that will bring us blessing; that is mourning for our own sins and sins of the humanity.
We read in Genesis Ch.1 to 3, God created us in His own image and likeness; gave us the glory and dignity of child of God. He handed over the entire creation to man to make use of it. Every creature on earth including wild beast were subject to man. Because of sin, man lost this glory and life became miserable and a struggle; every creature is against man, even though man is able to tame some of them. Man is afraid of even a street dog and it chases man. “The precious children of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold - how they are reckoned as earthen pots, the work of a potter’s hand.” (Lam 4:2). We need to mourn over the fallen state of man due to sin and our own sin with bitter tears of repentance. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret.” (2 Cor 7:10a).
Bible teaches us to mourn in this manner : “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad.” (Eccl 7:3). “And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first born.” (Zec 12:10). “But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” (Lk 23:28)
Talking about the mourning of David, Peter, Mary Magdalene over their sins, Bible says; “David fasted, and went in and lay all night on the ground.” (2 Sam 12:16b). “And Peter went out and wept bitterly.” (Lk 22:62) “She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair.” (Lk 7:38a)
Talking about the mourning over the sins of humanity, Bible says; about Intercessors, “Put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” (Ezek 9:4b); “For we, O Lord, have become fewer than any other nation, and are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins.” (Dan 3:37); about priests, “Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD.” (Jl 2:17a)
Jesus Himself wept over the misery of death on humanity. At the tomb of Lazarus, “Jesus began to weep.” (Jn 11:35). When Israel refused accept Jesus as Savior; “Jesus weeps over Jerusalem.” (Lk 19:41).
We need to mourn for offending God for He is infinitely loving, our ingratitude towards His gifts, for our temporal loss of blessings and being cause for Jesus to come to this earth as man and die on cross to pay price for our sins.
St. Gregory describes reason to mourn: “the more one ascends in meditation of Divine Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, and then realize the poverty of human nature, man can only be left in sorrow. When one contemplates that we were made in the image and likeness of God and lived in Paradise, the Garden of Eden, and compare that to our present state after the Fall, one can only mourn over our present condition. But the sentence continues that they shall be comforted, by the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Mourning in this context is called a blessing, because mourning our fallen nature creates in us a desire to improve ourselves and to do what is right.”
The blessing of this beatitude is “we will be comforted”. Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Consoler. “God comforts us in all our afflictions.” (2 Cor 1:4). When we mourn over our sins, Holy Spirit will fill us with peace and joy.
He acheter viagra will assure us that even greater blessings are waiting for us in heaven than what we have lost due to sin. “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Cor 2:9-10a). Through our mourning over the sins of others, God will give the grace of repentance to them also.
Jesus says “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45)
When devil succeeded in tempting Eve and when Adam ate the forbidden fruit, Adam and we the descendants of Adam became prisoners of sin and the devil held the humanity captive under bondage of sin. “the whole world lies under the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 15:19b). We could not escape from the strong clutches of sin(devil) on our own. “For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.” (Jer 31:11).
“Keep watch over yourselves and over the flock, of which Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” (Act 20:28).
That is why God the Father sent His only Son to die for us on the cross taking all our sins upon Himself and shed His blood as ransom for our redemption. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21).
The price paid by Jesus to redeem the humanity from the captivity of sin is shedding His own precious blood as a ransom. He delivered us from the clutches of devil and sin, thereby setting us free. Jesus has purchased us back from this captivity and we now belong to Jesus. “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” (1 Pet 1:18-19a).
St.Paul tells us to bear in mind always that we are not our own. We should not again fall back into sin, “For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:20). “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.” (1 Cor 7:23).
It is our responsibility now to conquer sin and devil with power of precious blood of Jesus and proclaiming by our deeds that we belong to Jesus Christ. “But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Rev 12:11a).
God tells each one of us “Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” (Is 43:4a). God values each one of us so much that He is not ready to lose even one of us. That is why, Jesus Christ, true face of the loving and merciful God says; “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11).
In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus makes us known the will of the Father; “So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” (Mt 18:14). The love of the shepherd for his sheep is so deeply expressed that the shepherd is ready to leave the 99 righteous and go in search of the lost one, putting his life itself in danger when he encounters the wild animals during the search. However, the lost sheep when it doesn’t find its way in the wilderness must cry for help. We are the like lost sheep due to our sins. We should cry for help by our repentance. “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Lk 15:7). And our good shepherd Jesus, in order to save us, has already given His life for us on the cross.
The nature of this good shepherd is different from the worldly shepherds that he is does not breathe a sigh of relief having ninety one with him and having just one lost. He counts this one lost very precious to him and does not mind risking his life to fetch it back and goes in search of it. This sounds peculiar to us when we view it in commercial context and especially when we see in families where the parents not worried much when their children go astray.
We are precious because each one of us unique in the sight of God. In His infinite wisdom, God has created each one of us uniquely both physically and spiritually. Man is just around 6ft tall and among the 700 crores people in this world today, we cannot find two people perfectly identical in all respect. This has been proved scientifically also. If this is so physically, then it is true spiritually also. Even though everyone is called by God for sainthood, there are no two saints who have led a spiritual life in a truly identical way. Each one is unique. This is very clear when we study the life of thousands of saints. God in His infinite wisdom is capable of doing so. God loves each one of us uniquely though equally. God wants to be glorified in each one of our life in a unique way. That is why, my physical, spiritual conditions, my family, its background, my problems, my joys, my situations in life are unique. Hence each one of us is precious in the sight of God. 01-Jul-14
The promise of God; “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Lk 11:9).
When Adam and Eve committed sin, three things happened.
God has restored back to us all these in Jesus Christ. But now we have to die to sin and live in Christ Jesus.
Ask grace of God : We should be clear what to ask. Jesus tells us to ask all the graces that are necessary for our salvation, to lead a holy life and do works that give glory to God and eternal reward to us. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become disciples.” (Jn 15:7-8). “…how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask of him!” (Lk 11:13b). “…Ask and you will receive so that your joy may be complete.”(Jn 16:24b). Never ask anything out of selfish ambitions or to fulfill worldly desires.
Search for God : We must seek the face of God always. In fact, God is close to us, God is with us. But can we recognize Him. Bible says; “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the LORD.” (Jer 29:13-14a). Do we have longing for God? We know on the way to Emmaus, when two disciples showed their longing for God, for they said “Stay with us”, Jesus let them find Him. “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” (Lk 24:31). God is always longing for us; “Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place.” (Jer 7:3).
Knock at the door of heaven : Thief on the right prayed; “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:42-43) If we miss heaven, then this life on earth is a waste for us. Hence every day, we should make this prayer to our Lord, knocking at the door of heaven.
St. Paul tells us; “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Rom 6:11, Col 3:1)
When our first parents Adam and Eve committed sin, the immediate consequence was that they were gripped with fear. “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Gen 3:10). The reason given by Adam for his fear was that he found himself naked. Adam’s nakedness signifies the loss blessings. But God questions Adam further inviting him to repent which Adam is not willing. God wanted Adam to repent and put his faith in love and mercy of God. It is very clear that Adam went against the will of God by his disobedience and fear gripped him. But, God in His mercy comes to the rescue of Adam and clothes them with garments of skins. (Gen 3:21)
Fear of God is a gift of the Holy Spirit (Is 11:2) which is also called fortitude of the Holy Spirit. This fear of God which Adam and Eve once had, before they committed sin. This fear of God brings a person closer to God by uniting his will to the will of God. This is very clear from the response of God when Abraham obeyed the command of God to sacrifice his only son. “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Gen 22:12).
However, worldly fear is a consequence of sin and lack of faith in God. “Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God; the fear of me is not in you, says the Lord GOD of hosts.” (Jer 2:19b). Wordly fear destroys a person’s life. Today we are gripped with so many kinds of fear. This is because like Adam wanted to escape from the responsibility of his sin, we may not accept our sins and may not repent sincerely. If we do repent, then maybe we do not put our trust in love and mercy of God.
Bible says, in more than 365 verses, “do not be afraid”. God is there always by our side for our rescue. “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Is 41:10). “I, I am he who comforts you; why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die, a human being who fades like grass?” (Is 51:12). “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” (Heb 13:6). “But I will save you on that day, says the LORD, and you shall not be handed over to those whom you dread.” (Jer 39:17).
Those who have various kinds of fear, must read these Bible verse repeatedly and claim the promise of the Word of God.
Jesus says; “Do no judge, so that you may not be judged.” (Mt 7:1). We are not supposed to judge others. Let us understand what is judging and who is a judge. When a person having authority and qualification, pronounces what is evil/wrong as evil/wrong and what is right/just as right/just is called judging. When he has the power and capacity to punish the evildoers and reward the righteous is a judge. So, who can be this true judge and judge righteously and impartially. It is God alone and judging is His authority. We are all sinners and we don’t have the right to judge.
St. Paul tells us in Rom 2:1-4, “…for in passing judgment on another, you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. …Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?” We do not have qualification or authority to judge others.
Continuing St.Paul tells that God is patiently waiting for them to repent and come back to Him. Also, He is helping them to come out of their faults. “Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4). Also, St.Paul questions our authority when we pass judgment. “who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld for their Lord is able to make them stand.” (Rom 14:4).
Then, what shall we say? Don’t we have the right and duty to tell others when they do wrong to us? Yes, we have. That is called reproving. “you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself” (Lev 19:17b). Don’t we have the right and duty to tell others when they do wrong to others? Yes, we have. That is called admonishing. “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom” (Col 3:16). Reproving and admonishing, both should be done with charity, with an intention to bring them back to the Lord by praying for their conversion, and also keeping in mind that we too are sinners. This kind of charity is called mercy.
We are called not to judge others, but to give mercy, kindness, compassion and forgiveness, so that in return, we also be treated in the same measure. Bible says; “For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” (Mt 7:2). If we judge others, Bible says; “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mt 6:14-15. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Mt. 5:7)
Everyone has their own spiritual struggles. God is merciful to them, deals patiently and helps them to come out of sin. We know when Pharisees branded Magdalene as adulteress and brought to Jesus, how Jesus rescued her and brought her to conversion. “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jn 8:7b). We are also called to help each other in our spiritual journey. Above all we must realize we ourselves are great sinners and make efforts to sanctify ourselves. “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.” (Mt 7:5)
Bible says “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” (Deut 6:4-7). God has given the primary responsibility of teaching catechism to children to their parents. It is the duty of the parents to teach divine values to their children and also to keep the commandments of God, thereby inculcating fear of God in them from childhood in all their activities. If parents understand this and take up their responsibility whatever busy schedules they may have, then children won’t go wayward and fall into bad company. This responsibility is extended even to grandparents, much more as they may have more free time. “make them known to your children and your children’s children.” (Deut 4:9b)
Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us (CCC 2223) that “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.” Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them.” This very clearly explains that home is the first school for children, Parents are the first teachers, and medium of instruction in this education is by the exemplary life of Parents. Children always watch the behavior of their Parents very closely and try to imitate. CCC2221 says “The role of parents in education of children is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” When parents give more importance to the spiritual education of the children more than the worldly education, then that family will be a blessed family. The presence of God will rule that family.
Family is the first institution created by God (Ref Gen ch2) and it is beautiful in the sight of God. Mother Church calls each family as domestic church or mini church (CCC 2204). When all domestic churches are strengthened, then we will have a strong universal church.
For many of us, our daily life has become a struggle. We are troubled from many directions. The shame of our past sins, the humiliation we face at home by family members and at work place by colleagues, the burdens of our sufferings, the struggles we face to meet our needs, make us sad at end of the day. Bible says, “Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.” (Ps 34:5).
What is required is we need to surrender all situations of our life to Jesus in prayer, knowing that He is there to help us every moment of our life. St.Peter tells us; “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pet 5:7). Jesus is the Master of our life. Entrust everything to Him. He will fill us with His Holy Spirit, our comforter and guide. Remember the words of Jesus, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20b).
Bible says, “No one who believes in him will be put shame.” (Rom 10:11). In many families, the relationship between life partners, between parents and children are strained or broken. Those facing financial breakdown, prolonged sickness, depression due to unending difficulties, struggles in job front, bad habits and vices of family members, unsettled disputes, surrender everything to Jesus and invite Him to take control of these situations. Pour out your tears to Him. In return, He will fill us with His peace and joy of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus invites us always; “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30). We are emotional beings and whenever we are troubled, we need a close friend with whom we want to share our sorrows so that our heart becomes light. Jesus is our best close friend. Spend time in prayer everyday and pour out your sorrow to Him. He will console us. Thus we will find rest for our soul and not for our body. He is asking us to learn from His example how He carried His cross. He invites us to learn from Him, the virtue of humility to bear our cross so that it may be light and joyful.
We encounter Jesus in Blessed Sacrament, in Holy Mass, in Prayer. Spend time in prayer and speak to Him heart to heart. He will take away our sadness and our faces will be radiant.
Bible says “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”” (Deut 15:11). Why are there poor on the earth always and why is God commanding to give rather than requesting. We know God on His part has blessed humanity abundantly to meet all their material needs. However, because of the greed of some people who amass wealth, rest have become poor and lack materially.
God is always on the side of the poor to answer their plea because they are helpless. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” (Is 41:17).
God commanded the Israelites to be generous to the poor. The blessings they receive have to be shared with the poor. “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien; I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 19:9-10). “thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the LORD your God has blessed you.” (Deut15:14b). Israelites were not allowed to claim complete ownership of the harvest. However today, the rich don’t even part with old newspaper or empty bottles of soft drink to the poor. Many a times, the rich mock the poor, criticize them, not knowing the pain of their heart and oppression the poor face. We must remember that even the poor are created in the image of God and Bible says “Those who mock the poor insult their Maker;” (Pro 17:5a).
We cannot neglect the cry of a poor especially in matter of hunger and sickness. “If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.” (Pro 21:13). Remember then always “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing,” (Pr 28:27a). “Indeed, almsgiving, for all who practice it, is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High.” (Tob 4:11). “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and will be repaid in full.” (Pro 19:17).
We cannot treat beggars as subhuman and look with contempt, because for God that person is His creation. God feels sorry for the state of that person and is compassionate to him. We all are equal and should have brotherly love and be compassionate and give alms. We give tithe to keep the commandment. We may give donation or charity to old age homes, orphanages. However, we must set aside some amount to give alms even if it is small.
Many a times, we listen about Mother Mary portrayed as a good woman who obeyed, suffered, and accepted the will of God. While these are true, Mother Mary is much more than this to us and we require her help in our spiritual journey to heaven.
To begin with, let us meditate on what Scripture say about first Eve, “From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die.” (Sir 25:24). Nothing to worry, from another woman (Mother Mary), salvation had its beginning, and because of her we all live. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15). The first Eve, listened to a bad angel, the devil. The second Eve, listened to a good angel, Arch Angel Gabriel. (LK 1:26-38). The first Eve yielded to devil’s temptation and ate the fruit, thus, the sinful history of man began. The second Eve consented to the God’s Will, thus the salvation history of man began. The first Eve was instrumental in making the first Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, thus the entire humanity fell into sin.(original sin). The second Eve was instrumental in bringing our Savior to this world and assisted in His passion and death, thus the entire humanity is saved.(those who believe in Jesus). The first Eve is co-sinner along with sinner Adam. The second Eve is Mediatrix (CCC969) along with Mediator Jesus. The first Eve has significant part in sinful history of humanity. The second Eve has significant part in salvation history of humanity. The first Adam named his wife Eve because she is the mother of all living. (Gen 3:20) The second Adam Jesus, gave His mother as mother of all spiritually living.(Jn 19:27) She is our spiritual mother and we are her spiritual children. (Rev 12:10)
The physical relationships will end with this earth. But the spiritual relationship will continue in heaven.
Bible says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps 119:105). Jesus tells the rich young man, “If you enter into life, keep commandments.” (Mt 19:17b). We need to read Bible everyday so that we may know the commandments and decrees of God. However, if we listen to Bible reading and preaching is not enough. We need to make all efforts to put them into practice. Our life should be guided by Gospel values. “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn 6:63b).
That is why St.James tells us “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.” (Jas 1:22-24). We may know Bible verses by heart; attend many Bible conventions or undergone Bible study course. These things will not help us much unless we are radically transformed to Gospel values. The Ten Commandments which are detailed in 620+ precepts should lead us to love of God and love of neighbor.
The importance of keeping commandments of God is so serious that Jesus tells us “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:17-19). Jesus lived a life according to the commandments of God, giving us an example.
The promise of God to those who keep the commandments of God is this; “No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Only be strong and courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous and then you shall be successful.” (Jos 1:5,7-8).
Beatitudes means promise of supreme blessings for good attitudes. We are called to lead a blessed life. The blessing for first and eighth beatitude is ‘kingdom of heaven’, thus comes to a full circle.
Church teaches us in CCC1716; ‘The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven. CCC1717 says; ‘They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of Christian life. CCC1718 says; ‘The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin. God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it.’ CCC1719 which is very important says; ‘The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts.’
First among eight beatitudes is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3)
‘Poor in spirit’ is totally different from materially poor. Today, vast majority of the population are materially poor. We know, Jesus moved with poor people, marginalized and downtrodden of the society, so also the Church does. But nowhere we read, ‘Blessed are poor’, but we read, ‘Blessed are poor in spirit.’ Wealth in itself is not evil; poverty in itself is not virtue. Right use of them makes it a virtue, wrong use of them makes it evil.
Who are then ‘Poor in spirit?’ These people may be materially (wealth) or spiritually (graces) rich and blessed. But God is first priority in their life and blessings come as a consequence of this. However, they are not attached to the blessings, but attached to the giver of blessings - God Himself. Whenever they have blessings, they are not elated; whenever they lose blessings, they are not disturbed. Their love for God is sincere and unconditional. With humility they accept blessing from God as a gift, but in their heart, they empty themselves of every attachment to blessings, but they are attached to God alone. In short, poverty of spirit is an emptying of self so that God can fill them with life and love. Hence they experience kingdom of heaven on earth itself. Living on earth, they taste heavenly life.
Detachment from Material Blessings : In the beginning, God created abundance. In Deut ch.28, we read those who keep the commandments of God will be materially blessed abundantly. However one should seek God for the sake of love of God and not for material blessings alone. Bible says; “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.’ (Jer 17:7)
We have many examples in the Bible who trusted in God alone and not on material riches : “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”” (Gen 12:1). Abraham was ready to obey God by sacrificing all material riches.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21). Job was not disturbed when he lost all material riches, but his love for God remained same.
“David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod.” (2 Sam 6:14). David, even though he was king, always remembered that he was a shepherd boy and when he came in the presence of God, he was humble.
“All my kindred and ancestral house of Naphtali sacrificed to the calf that King Jeroboam of Israel erected… But I alone went often to Jerusalem... Do not be afraid, my son, because we have become poor. You have great wealth if your fear God.” (Tob 1:5, 4:21). Tobit who was rich even though became poor, had deep reverence for God.
In contrast to this, we can see in the parable of Rich Fool (Lk 12:13-21), the moment he became rich, he so much got attached to material wealth that he forgot God and started enjoying himself.
Detachment from Spiritual Blessings : God gives us spiritual blessings and charisms for our spiritual growth and growth of the church. However, we should get attached to God and not to the blessings. We read; “The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” (Lk 10:17). However, Jesus sees the danger in disciples of getting attached to the spiritual blessing and not to the giver of blessing; that is God Himself. Jesus warns them; “do not rejoice at this, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Lk 10:20)
Moses was in this danger once. We read Moses saying; “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you from the rock?” (Num 20:10). As a result Moses forgot what God told him. God told Moses to ‘command the rock’, but Moses ‘struck the rock twice’, and God was displeased. It is not Moses, but God bringing water from the rock.
Bible says; “On that day many will say to me. ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deed of power in your name? Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.’” (Mt 7:22-23)
When we accept blessings from God both material and spiritual with humility and use them for glory of God, then we live a life of poverty in spirit and taste heavenly life on earth itself. The blessing of this beatitude is “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”