FATHER MICHAEL REFLECTS – 10102021
GOSPEL REFLECTION— Mark 8: 34-91
What is the most important investment you can make with your life? Jesus poses some probing questions to challenge our assumptions about what is most profitable and worthwhile. In every decision of life we are making ourselves a certain kind of person. The kind of person we are, our character, determines to a large extent the kind of future we will face and live. It is possible that some can gain all the things they set their heart on, only to wake up suddenly and discover that they missed the most important things of all. Of what value are material things if they don’t help you gain what truly lasts in eternity. Neither money nor possessions can buy heaven, mend a broken heart, or cheer a lonely person. Jesus asks the question: What will a person give in exchange for his life? Everything we have is an out-right gift from God. We owe Him everything, including our very lives. It’s possible to give God our money, but not ourselves, or to give him lip-service, but not our hearts. A true disciple gladly gives up all that he has in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness with God. God gives without measure. The joy He offers no sadness or loss can diminish. The cross of Christ leads to victory and freedom from sin and death.
What is the cross which Jesus Christ commands me to take up each day? When my will crosses with His will, then His will must be done. Are you ready to lose all for Jesus Christ in order to gain all with Jesus Christ?
GOSPEL REFLECTION— John 3: 13-17
“For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son”
True love doesn’t count the cost; it gives liberally. A true lover gives the best he has to offer and everything
he has for the beloved. God proved His love for us by giving us the best He had to offer — His only begotten
Son who freely gave Himself as an offering to God for our sake and as the atoning sacrifice for our sin and the
sin of the world. Abraham’s willing sacrifice of his only son, Isaac prefigures the perfect offering and sacrifice
of God’s beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This passage in the gospel of John tells us of the great breadth and width of God’s
love. Not an excluding love for just a few or for a single nation, but a redemptive love that embraces the whole world, and a
personal love for each and every individual whom God has created. God is a loving Father who cannot rest until His wandering
children have returned home to Him. Saint Augustine says, God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. God
gives us the freedom to choose whom and what we will love. Jesus shows us the paradox of love and judgment. We can love
the darkness of sin and unbelief or we can love the light of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness. If our love is guided by what is
true, and good and beautiful then we will choose for God and love Him above all else. What we love shows what we prefer.
Do you love God above all else? Does He take first place in your life, in your thoughts, and actions?
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt 22: 35 – 46
“You shall love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself”
What is the purpose of God’s law or commandments? The Pharisees prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements. They made it a life-time practice to study the 616 precepts of the Old Testament along with the numerous rabbinic commentaries. They tested Jesus to see if he correctly understood the law as they did. Jesus startled them with His profound simplicity and mastery of the law of God and its purpose. What does God require of us? Simply that we love as He loves! God is love and everything He does flows from His love for us. God loved us first and our love for Him is a response to His exceeding grace and kindness towards us. The love of God comes first and the love of neighbor is firmly grounded in the love of God. The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what He loves and reject what is hateful and contrary to His will. What makes our love for God and His commands grow in us? Faith in God and hope in His promises strengthens us in the love of God. They are essential for a good relationship with God, for being united with Him. The more we know of God the more we love Him and the more we love Him the greater we believe and hope in His promises. The Lord, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as He loves.
Do you allow anything to keep you from the love of God and the joy of serving others with a generous heart? Paul the Apostle says: hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Romans 5:5). Do you know the love which conquers all?
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt 22:1-14
The Parable of the Wedding Feast reveals two unfortunate responses to the Gospel. First, there are those who ignore the invitation. Second, there are those who respond to the proclamation of the Gospel with hostility.
If you commit yourself to the proclamation of the Gospel, and have dedicated your whole soul to this mission, you will most likely encounter both of these reactions. The King is an image of God, and we are called to be His messengers. We are sent by the Father to go and gather others into the wedding feast. This is a glorious mission in that we are privileged to invite people to enter into eternal joy and happiness! But rather than being filled with great excitement at this invitation, many we encounter will be indifferent and go about their day uninterested in what we share with them. Others, especially when it comes to various moral teachings of the Gospel, will react with hostility.
The rejection of the Gospel, be it indifferentism or a more hostile rejection, is an act of incredible irrationality. The truth is that the message of the Gospel, which is ultimately an invitation to share in the Wedding Feast of God, is an invitation to receive the fullness of life. It’s an invitation to share in the very life of God. What a gift! Yet there are those who fail to accept this gift from God because it is a total abandonment to the mind and will of God in every way. It requires humility and honesty, conversion and selfless living.
Reflect, today, upon two things. First, reflect upon your own reaction to the Gospel. Do you react to all that God speaks to you with complete openness and zeal? Second, reflect upon the ways that you are called by God to bring His message to the world. Commit yourself to doing so with great zeal, regardless of the reaction of others. If you fulfill these two responsibilities, you and many others will be blessed to share in the Wedding Feast of the Great King.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt 21:33-42
“Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” Matthew 21:37-39
This passage from the Parable of the Tenants is shocking. If it were to have happened in real life, the father who sent his son to the vineyard to collect the produce would have been shocked beyond belief at the fact that the evil tenants killed even his son. Of course, had he known this would have happened, he would never have sent his son into this evil situation.
This passage, in part, reveals the difference between rational thinking and irrational thinking. The father sent his son because he presumed that the tenants would be rational. He presumed a basic respect would be offered, but instead came face to face with evil.
Being confronted with extreme irrationality, which is grounded in evil, can be shocking, despairing, frightening and confusing. But it’s important that we not fall into any of these. Instead, we must strive to be prudent enough to discern evil when we encounter it. Had the father in this story been more discerning of the evil he was dealing with, he would not have sent his son.
So it is with us. At times, we must be ready to name evil for what it is rather than attempt to confront it with rationality. Evil is not rational. It can not be reasoned with or negotiated with. It simply must be opposed and opposed with much force.
Reflect, today, upon any situation in which you find yourself where you come face to face with evil. Learn from this parable that there are many times in life where rationality wins out. But there are some times when the powerful wrath of God is the only answer. When evil is “pure” it must be confronted in a direct way with the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Seek to discern between the two and don’t be afraid to name evil for what it is when it is present.
FEAST OF THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
The Dormition of the Theotokos is a confirmation of the resurrection of Christ and a source of hope for the faithful in the promise of their personal resurrection, their personal Pascha. The death of the Theotokos and her translation into heaven confirms the divine promise of Christ to His faithful children that they will enjoy life eternal in everlasting communion with God.
What a paradox! While this Feast is called the “Falling Asleep of the Theotokos,” it is in reality a celebration of her life and victory over death. It is a celebration of her “Passover” from this life into life eternal. It is a celebration of the confirmation of the promise of our own resurrection in Christ.
According to an old custom, flowers and medicinal herbs are blessed after the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Dormition. According to traditional belief, after Mary’s assumption, her tomb was fill with a “heavenly fragrance” and flowers. The herbs, used as natural medicine, are blessed in commemoration of the numerous healing and extraordinary graces bestowed on the pilgrims at Mary’s tomb.
Dormition of the Holy Mother Icon: Click here
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt 18:23-35
You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
That is definitely NOT what you want Jesus to say and do to you! How frightening to hear Him say, “You wicked servant!” And then to have Him hand you over to the torturers until you pay back all you owe for your sin.
Well, the good news is that Jesus deeply longs to avoid such an awful confrontation. He has no desire to hold any one of us accountable for the ugliness of our sins. His burning desire is to forgive us, pour out mercy, and wipe the debt away.
The danger is that there is at least one thing that will keep Him from offering us this act of mercy. It’s our obstinacy in failing to forgive those who have wronged us. This is a serious requirement of God upon us and one we should, therefore, not take lightly. Jesus told this story for a reason and the reason was that He meant it. We can often just think of Jesus as a very passive and gentle person who will always smile and look the other way when we sin. But don’t forget this parable! Don’t forget that Jesus is serious about obstinate refusal to offer mercy and forgiveness to others.
Why is He so strong on this requirement? Because we cannot receive what we are not willing to give away. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense at first but it’s a very real fact of the spiritual life. If we want mercy, we must give mercy away. If we want forgiveness, we must offer forgiveness. But if we want harsh judgment and condemnation, well, then go ahead and offer harsh judgment and condemnation. Jesus will answer that act in kind.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt 14:22-34
Does the Lord seem distant when trials or adversity come your way? It was at Jesus’ initiative that the disciples sailed across the lake, only to find themselves in a life-threatening storm. Although they were experienced fishermen, they feared for their lives. While Jesus was not with them in the boat, He, nonetheless watched for them in prayer. When He perceived their trouble He came to them on the sea and startled them with His sudden appearance.
This dramatic incident on the sea of Galilee revealed Peter’s character more fully than others. Here we see Peter’s impulsivity — his tendency to act without thinking of what he was doing. He often failed and came to grief as a result of his impulsiveness. In contrast, Jesus always bade His disciples to see how difficult it was to follow Him before they set out on the way He taught them. A great deal of failure in the Christian life is due to acting on impulse and emotional fervor without counting the cost. Peter, fortunately in the moment of his failure clutched at Jesus and held Him firmly. His failures only made him love the Lord more deeply and trust Him more intently.
The Lord keeps watch over us at all times, and especially in our moments of temptation and difficulty. Do you rely on the Lord for His strength and help? Jesus assures us that we have no need of fear if we trust in Him and in His great love for us. When calamities or trials threaten to overwhelm you, how do you respond?
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Matt: 17: 14-23
What kind of faith does the Lord expect of us, especially when we meet set-backs and trials? Inevitably there are times when each of us disappoint others or disappoint ourselves when we suffer some kind of set- back or failure. In this gospel incident the disciples of Jesus fail to heal an epileptic boy. Jesus’ response seems stern; but it is really tempered with love and compassion. We see at once Jesus’ dismay with the disciples’ lack of faith and his concern to meet the need of this troubled boy and his father. With one word of command Jesus rebukes the evil spirit that has caused this boy’s affliction and tells the spirit to “never enter him again”. Jesus tells his disciples that they can “remove mountains” if they have faith in God. The expression to “remove mountains” was a common Jewish phrase for removing difficulties. A wise teacher who could solve difficulties was called a “mountain remover”.
If we pray with expectant faith God will give us the means to overcome difficulties and obstacles. When you meet trials and disappointments how do you respond? With faith and trust in Jesus?