Christ’s Mandate

Matthew 16: 13-19
Acts 12: 1-10 / Psa 34 / 2Tim 4:6-8,17-18

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…
(Matthew 16:19)

Who Jesus is in my life today
Reflects the things I do and say.
Lord, let me always display Your ways
That others too may give You praise.

When Jesus went into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, and others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ (Matthew 16:13-19)

Reflection

Jesus entrusted to St. Peter the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” as the symbol of the Church’s authority and wisdom. All authority and wisdom come from God. They are the fruit of faith. God has given them for a divine purpose. The few who are called to serve are given the tools for the harvest. God never leaves them on their own. His Spirit always abides in all their undertakings for His kingdom. That is why they can speak with authority because He imbues them with His wisdom.

It is a sacred privilege to share in the work of the Lord’s ministers, our bishops and priests, whose authority emanates directly from God. “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” This passage is a strong admonition for them to safeguard all the spiritual graces that Jesus has entrusted to them in the ministry of the sacraments. How fortunate we are to have the Lord’s ministers to provide us what we need for our spiritual benefit – practically for free. It should therefore only be natural for us to accord the reverence due them as God’s holy ministers, and to help them in the ministry of propagating the Gospel values of our Lord Jesus Christ. I’d like to believe that there must be a higher reason for the continuing decline in the priestly vocation; perhaps we are in the age of the “clericalization” of the laity. Our Lord is asking us, “Who do you say that I am?” All of us who believe that He is “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” are bound by the same mandate that binds His priestly ministers — to declare Jesus as our Savior to others, and to serve our Mother Church through our talents and resources. This we can do through our renewal community.

There are many ways by which we can serve the Lord in His vineyard. Whether as speaker, group leader, prayer leader or even just a volunteer servant, God will provide the grace we need to make our service a blessed exercise. When we are asked to prepare a talk, personal testimony, or inspired to write reflections on the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will give us certain gifts like wisdom or discernment, and revealed by Divine Providence Himself! Like St. Peter, but in a minor way, we are also privileged to receive the “keys of heaven.” When a task is done, like a testimony shared or a talk delivered, we can feel like St. Paul who “has fought the good fight and finished the race.” (2 Tim.4:7) “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed.” (2Tim.4:17)

To everyone involved in the ministry of the Word, the work is the reward itself because the manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s gifts are such precious influences. We believe our Lord’s words that “flesh and blood has not revealed (these to us), but (our) heavenly Father.” (Mt.16:17) What a joy it is to know that like the disciples of Jesus, we too are being sent by the Lord in spreading the Good News of salvation.

Thank You, Lord for the assurance of Your kingdom that we receive through our pope, bishops and priests; and for the precious opportunity of sharing in their work. Amen.

The Centurion’s Faith & Humility

Matthew 8: 5-17

Gn 18:1-15 / Lk 1:46-55

Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.

(Matthew 8:8)

What does it take to be Christ’s soldier?

Intelligence? Strength? Courage? Honor?

No, it just takes complete surrender,

With Faith for shield, meekness for armor.

As Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached Him, and appealed to Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” And He said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,’ and he goes, and to another, `Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. Jesus entered Peter’s house, and saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever; He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and served him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8: 5-17)

Reflection

After He had healed a leper, a Roman Centurion next came up to Jesus to appeal for the healing of his slave. While the leper was treated with contempt by the Jewish community, the Centurion was accorded their highest honor and respect, because “he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us” (according to the version of Luke, 7:5). The leper was a Jew, and the Centurion was a heathen. But Jesus never made any distinction whoever came to Him for help. And just as He was willing to touch the leper who was considered “unclean”, He was just as ready to be “defiled” by entering the house of a pagan. What put both men in the same good graces with our Lord was their strong faith in His healing power.

Jesus was immediately won over by the Roman centurion, not by his power and authority, but by his humility and his compassion for his servant. His approach was one of surrender, begging for the life of his slave. But more than these, Jesus was impressed by the soldier’s strong faith. “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.

It is a rare quality in a man who wields political or military power to humble himself before anyone under his authority or jurisdiction. The centurion was a Roman officer in charge of a hundred soldiers. Centurions were known to be fierce soldiers, and were thus respected and feared by the people Rome had subjugated. But this Centurion who sought the help of Jesus was different, because his life was ruled by love, love for the Jewish nation, and love for his slave. Love defined the strength of his character, matched only by his great faith in Jesus.

The example of the Centurion in today’s Gospel teaches us that to win the hearts of others, we must first conquer what is within. The world is not the battlefield; it is our mind and heart. And the prize at stake is our soul. The virtues of compassion, humility, respect and faith will serve us well if we first submit ourselves to God’s authority and His discipline.

Help us, Father God to develop humility in our strength, compassion for our enemies, and faith in times of trouble, so that like the Centurion in today’s Gospel, we also may win the praise of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Nativity of John the Baptist

Luke 1: 57-66, 80

Is 49: 1-6 / Ps 139: 1-3, 13-15 / Acts 13: 22-26

“What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.(Luke 1:66)

To proclaim the Savior Jesus

Was the purpose of his existence;

Like St. John let us give witness

In our words and works of His presence.

When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, asking him what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he spoke, blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Luke 1: 57-66, 80)

Reflection

The feast day of all the saints and martyrs of the Church are usually commemorated on the date of their death. Only St. John the Baptist was given the special honor (along with our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary) of having his feast day celebrated on his nativity. We are told in the Gospel narrative of St. Luke that John the Baptist was born six months before the birth of our Lord. That is why the Church celebrates his feast day on June 24, exactly six months before the birth of Jesus, which we celebrate on December 25.

Why was John the Baptist given this special honor? Well, first of all, we can see from the Gospel of Luke how the nativity narrative of John the Baptist was given such prominence in the first two chapters, where his annunciation and birth alternate with those of his cousin, the Savior Jesus. We also see remarkable similarities in the birth of the Baptist and the Messiah. Both of their births were announced by the Archangel Gabriel, their names proclaimed as coming from God Himself. And both of their nativities were manifestations of God’s miraculous power: Jesus Christ born of a virgin, and St. John of parents no longer humanly capable of childbirth due to old age. But these details of his birth are only meant to highlight the fact that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet and precursor of our Lord Jesus Christ. His life plays an important role in God’s plan of salvation; he is the “bridge” between the Old and the New Testament, being the last prophet of the Old and the first prophet of the New to “prepare the way of the Messiah,” by genuine repentance.

St. John the Baptist remains one of the most influential saints in the liturgical history of the Church. He is remembered every time a child becomes a Christian through the sacrament of Baptism. His famous words, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” constantly remind us of our need for purification, to wash ourselves clean, and be worthy to receive our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

 Let us make St. John the Baptist the model of our life by pointing others toward Jesus Christ, Who is the only Way to salvation. It would be a great privilege, even if like him we would be a “lone voice crying out in the wilderness.” St. John was never ashamed of his haggard appearance, clothed in camel hair, poorer than a desert rat. He was revered as a prophet of God in his time, and we revere him today as the greatest of saints in heaven.

 We thank You, Father God, for the life and example of St. John the Baptist. We pray for his intercession, that our lives may be purified, to be worthy to enter Your kingdom. Amen.


"The gifts that we may give, the deeds that we may do, most truly honor Christ when self is given too." - D. De Haan

"God loves a cheerful giver." - 2 Corinthians 9:7 ♥

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The Lord protects me from all danger; I will never be afraid." - Psalms 27:1 <3

ronniefein:

I was reading here that some recently “hot” New York dining trends are either slowing down or completely dead. Like the notion that “pies are the new cupcakes.” Several months ago several food authorities predicted that the cupcake thing might be over and that pie would replace it.

Well, in…

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