Gospel Reflections

Gospel reflection: Matt 15: 21-28

Do you ever feel “put-off” or ignored by the Lord?  A Gentile woman, a foreigner who was not a member of the Jewish people, puts Jesus on the spot by pleading for his help. She addressed Jesus as Lord and Son of David. She recognized that Jesus was God’s anointed one who would bring healing and salvation, not only to the people of Israel, but to the Gentiles as well. She asks Jesus to show mercy and compassion to her tormented daughter. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her, and this made his disciples feel embarrassed. Jesus does this to test the woman to awaken faith in her.

When she persisted in asking Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus answered by saying one shouldn’t take food prepared for their children and throw it to the dogs. What did Jesus mean by this expression? The Jews often spoke of the Gentiles as “unclean dogs” since they worshipped idols, offered sacrifices to demons, and rejected the true God. For the Greeks the “dog” was a symbol of dishonor and was used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. Matthew 7:6 records the expression: do not give dogs what is holy. Jesus was sent from the Father in heaven to first feed the children of Israel with the true bread of life that would bring healing, reconciliation, and lasting union with God. This humble Canaanite woman was not put-off by Jesus’ refusal to give her what she asked for. In desperation and hope for her tormented child, she pleads with Jesus to give some of the “crumbs that fall from the table” to the “little dogs”.

Jesus praised this woman for her faith and for her love because she made the misery of her child her own. She was willing to suffer rejection in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?

 

Saturday, Oct. 1st –  FEAST OF THE PATRONAGE OF THE MOTHER OF GOD

Mary is the Protectress of all Christians.  As the Mother of the Church she is constantly concerned for the welfare of her children.  We call Mary our mother and share in many graces and gifts of that special relationship.  There are many times we need to call upon Mary for her powerful intercession before her Son. 

 

On this feast, let us renew our devotion to her.  We should take this opportunity to dedicate our families and those whom we love to the “Protection” of Mary.  Just as she did centuries ago, she will continue to protect Christian people with love and her motherly prayers before her Son.  May we never hold back in asking her for assistance in whatever problem we may face.  She is a loving mother and will come to the  assistance of her children.  May we come to realize the necessity of her hand in our lives and in our hearts. 

 

Gospel reflection: Matt 25: 14-30

This passage begins the Parable of the Talents.  In the end, two of the servants worked hard using what they had received to produce more.  One of the servants did nothing and received condemnation.  There are many lessons we can take from this parable.  Let’s look at a lesson about equality.

At first, it may strike you that each of the servants were entrusted with a different number of talents, a reference to the monetary system used at that time.  In our day and age we tend to be fixated on what many call “equal rights.”  We get envious and angry if others seem to be treated better than us and there are many who become quite vocal about any perceived lack of fairness.

How would you feel if you were the one who received only one talent in this story after watching two others receive five and two talents?  Would you feel cheated?  Would you complain?  Perhaps.

Though the heart of the message in this parable is more about what one does with that which is received, it’s interesting to note that God does appear to give different portions to different people.  To some He gives what appears to be an abundance of blessings and responsibility.  To others He appears to give very little that is considered of value in this world.

God does not lack justice in any way.  Therefore, this parable should help us to accept the fact that life may not always “appear” to be fair and equal.  But this is a worldly perspective, not a divine one.  From the mind of God, those who have been given very little in the view of the world have as much potential to produce an abundance of good fruit as those who have been entrusted with much.  Think, for example, about the difference between a billionaire and a beggar.  Or about the difference between a bishop and an ordinary layman.  It’s easy to compare ourselves to others, but the fact of the matter is that the only thing that matters is what we do with that which we have received.  If you are a poor beggar who has been dealt a very difficult situation in life, you have just as much potential to glorify God and produce an abundance of good fruit as anyone else.

 

Gospel reflection  : Mark 8: 34 – 9:1

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

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 sins of the world.  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  God and love Him above all else.  What we love shows what we prefer.

 Do love God above all else? Does He take first place in your life, in your thoughts, and actions?

FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS 

 Wednesday, September 14

This week we venerate the Holy Cross of our Lord, and Orthodox Christians around the world raise the symbol of the sacred and precious wood, we proclaim the Cross to be an invincible shield, a divine scepter, and the boast of the faithful.  We exalt it affirming that the Cross sanctifies to the ends of the world.  We hail the life-giving Cross as the “unconquerable trophy of godliness, door to Paradise, and succor of the faithful.”  Through the Cross our enemies are vanquished, freedom from corruption and mortality is established, and salvation is offered universally.

 

As the Cross is lifted up, we marvel at how an instrument meant for torture and shame leads us to abundant and eternal life.  We contemplate how an object that inflicted suffering and death reveals the glory and power of God.  We offer praise and thanksgiving, for instead of hate and inhumanity, the Cross has become love and freedom.  Instead of suffering, we find healing and hope.  The Cross leads us from death and life, and through the Cross we know that all things are possible to those who believe in Christ.

 

As we lift up the Holy Cross, we offer a witness to the world of the power of faith.  We are reminded that Christ has called us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)  We reflect on the words of the Apostle Paul which offer guidance on the relationship of the Cross and faith: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)  The Cross shows us the power of God that makes all things possible through faith.

 

May we go forth from our gathering as His people, the Cross before us, knowing that through our faith in Christ, great and marvelous things, things that seem impossible and unattainable, will be accomplished for His honor and glory!

 

FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF THE  MOTHER OF GOD 

DIVINE LITURGY –  Thursday, September 8

10:00 a.m.—St. Michael Parish

7:00 p.m. –  St. Anne Parish

On this day we celebrate the birth of the Holy Mother of God. It is fitting that this is the first Great Feast of the Byzantine Liturgical Calendar since it is through Mary that God’s plan for our salvation would be realized.

 

We celebrate our Blessed Mother because she was created and brought into this world by God and that alone is worth celebrating.  We honor her  because we love her and we celebrate her birthday as we would celebrate the birthday of anyone we love and care for.

 

Reflect, upon the fact that Mother Mary is your mother.  She truly is your mother and it’s worth celebrating her birthday in the same way that you would celebrate anyone’s birthday who was a member of your family.  Your honoring of Mary is a way of solidifying your bond with her and assuring her that you desire her to be an important part of your life. 

NEW LITURGICAL YEAR    SEPTEMBER 1st

In the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the liturgical year begins on September 1st. Throughout the year, the faithful witness and observe various feasts that honor Christ, the most holy Mother of God, the martyrs, apostles and saints. Throughout the church liturgical year, there are many feasts that are ascribed the denotation of “major” feasts and, supplementary to these feasts, the Ukrainian Catholic Church also celebrates “minor” feasts.

The Liturgical Year begins and ends with the Mother of God.  The first Great Feast –  Sept. 8th – the Nativity honors her birth and the Last Great Feast of the year Aug. 15th –  the Dormition—remembers her falling asleep.  Between these two Great Feast  there are 10 other Major Feasts.  Also PASCHA, which is celebrated in the middle of the year is the Feast of Feasts.

Perhaps today is the time to make a “New Liturgical Year’s Resolution” to walk more closely with Our Lord each day of our earthly pilgrimage.  To re-live the events and life of Jesus that led to our salvation through Jesus and His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  As we begin a New Liturgical Year, let us thank God for the abundance of graces and blessings received.

 

 Sept. 4: GOSPEL  REFLECTION: Matt 21:33-42

Jesus’ story about an absentee landlord and his not-so-good tenants would have made sense to his audience. The hills of Galilee were lined with numerous vineyards, and it was quite common for the owners to let out their estates to tenants. Why did Jesus’ story about wicked tenants cause offense to the scribes and Pharisees?  It contained both a prophetic message and a warning. 

 

This parable speaks to us today.  It richly conveys some important truths about God and the way He deals with His people.  First, it tells us of God’s generosity and trust.  The vineyard is well equipped with everything the tenants need.  The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants.  God, likewise trusts us enough to give us freedom to run life as we choose.  This parable also tells us of God’s patience and justice.  Not once, but many times He forgives the tenants their debts.  But while the tenants take advantage of the owner’s patience, his judgment and justice prevail in the end.

 

Jesus foretold both His death and His ultimate triumph.  He knew He would be rejected and be killed, but He also knew that would not be the end. After rejection would come glory — the glory of resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father. The Lord blesses His people today with the gift of His kingdom.  And He promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in Him (see John 15:1-11).  He entrusts His gifts and grace to each of us and He gives us work to do in His vineyard — the body of Christ.  He promises that our labor will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end (see 1 Cor. 15:58). We can expect trials and even persecution.  But in the end we will see triumph. 

 

Do you labor for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in His victory?

 

August 28: GOSPEL  REFLECTION:.  Matt 19:16-28

A rich young man who came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus went on to tell him to keep the commandments. The young man said he has done so from his youth and wanted to know what else he could do. So Jesus answered his question. But the answer was more than the young man could accept.

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 

Do you want to be perfect? If so, then Jesus has set a high bar for such a goal. It seems that many followers of Christ are okay with simply being okay. In other words, it seems that it is rare to find a person who is wholeheartedly committed to perfection. Many may have good intentions, but it seems that there are few who fully commit themselves to all it takes to truly obtain the perfection to which we are all called. 

Though the invitation given to this young man to “go, sell what you have and give to the poor” is not a requirement that our Lord places on everyone, He does call some to do this literally. But for everyone else, the invitation still remains—but in a spiritual sense rather than a literal sense.  Everyone of us is called to be interiorly detached from the things of this world in a complete way, even though we retain our possessions. We must have as our single possession the love of God and the service of His will.

 

This depth of spiritual detachment means that God and His holy will is all we desire in life. And if He ever were to call us to literally give everything up, we would do it without hesitation. And though that may seem extreme, it is, in fact, exactly what will benefit us the most. It is the only way to become fully human and fully the person we were meant to be. And the end reward is not only the attainment of Heaven but an incomprehensible amount of glory in Heaven. The holier we become here on earth, the greater will our eternal reward be in Heaven. Do not hesitate to do all you can to build up that treasure that will be with you forever.

 

FEAST OF THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD

Divine Liturgy will be held at

St. Anne & St. Michael Parish tomorrow, Monday Aug. 15 at 7:00 p.m.

 

Blessing of Flowers  will take place on:  

St. Anne – Saturday, Aug. 13 –  4:00 p.m. &  Sunday, Aug. 14 –  10:00 a.m. 

&  Monday, Aug. 15 –  7:00 p.m.

St. Michael –  Sunday, Aug. 14 –  9:30 a.m.  &  Monday, Aug. 15—7:00 p.m.

 

The Feast of the Dormition or Falling asleep of the Theotokos is celebrated on the 15th of August.  This feast, which is also known as the Assumption, commemorates the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ’s mother.  It proclaims that Mary has been “assumed” by God into the Heavenly Kingdom of Christ in the fullness of her spiritual and bodily existence.

 

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.

 

August 21: GOSPEL  REFLECTION: Matt 18: 23-35

How does mercy and justice go together?    When Peter posed the question of forgiveness, he characteristically offered an answer he thought Jesus would be pleased with.  Why not forgive seven times!  How unthinkable for Jesus to counter with the proposition that one must forgive seventy times that.  Jesus made it clear that there is no reckonable limit to forgiveness.  And He drove the lesson home with a parable about two very different kinds of debts.  The first man owed an enormous sum of money .    The man who was forgiven such an incredible debt could not, however bring himself to forgive his neighbor a very small debt. No offence our neighbor can do to us can compare with our debt to God! We have been forgiven a debt which is beyond all paying; to ransom our debt of sin God gave up His only begotten Son. If God has forgiven each of us our debt, which was very great, we, too must forgive others the debt they owe us.  Jesus teaches that one must forgive in order to be forgiven. If we do not forgive our fellow man we cannot expect God to forgive us.  Mercy is truly a gift and it is offered in such a way that justice is not negated.  Mercy “seasons” justice as “salt” seasons meat and gives it flavor.  Mercy follows justice and perfects it.  If we want mercy shown to us we must be ready to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Do you hold any grudge or resentment towards anyone?

August 14: 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?

The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ  commemorates the transfiguration  of Christ on Mount Tabor, when our Lord appeared in His divine glory before the Apostles Peter, James, and John.  This feast is  celebrated on the sixth of August. The blessing of grapes, as well as other fruits and vegetables on this day is the most beautiful and adequate sign of the final ­transfiguration of all things in Christ. It signifies the ultimate flowering and fruitfulness of all creation in the paradise of God’s unending Kingdom of Life where all will he transformed by the glory of the Lord.

Remember to bring fruit for blessing which will be held following each Liturgy on:

Saturday, Aug. 6 at 4:00 p.m. ( St. Anne)

Sunday, Aug. 7 at 9:30 a.m. (St. Michael) 

Sunday, Aug. 7 at 10:00 a.m. (St. Anne)

My transfigured Lord, You are glorious beyond imagination, and You revealed a small glimpse of this glory to Your disciples to help them trust You more fully. May I also trust in You more completely, knowing that all You have spoken to me is true. Please remove any doubt and fear in my life so that nothing keeps me from embracing Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.

 

August 7 – GOSPEL  REFLECTION:

Matt 14: 22-34

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” 

What a wonderful expression of faith!  Saint Peter, caught in stormy conditions on the sea, expressed his complete confidence that if Jesus were to call him out of the boat to walk on water, it would happen.  Jesus does call him to Himself, and St. Peter begins to walk on water.  Of course, we know what happened next.  Peter was filled with fear and began to sink.  Fortunately, Jesus caught him, and all was well.

Interestingly, this story reveals much to us about our own lives of faith and much more about the goodness of Jesus.  So often we begin with a faith in our head and have every intention of living that faith.  Like Peter, we often make firm resolutions to trust in Jesus and to “walk on water” at His command.  However, all too often we experience the same thing Peter did.  We start to live the trust we express in Jesus, only to suddenly waver and give in to fear in the midst of our hardship.  We begin to sink and have to cry out for help.  

In some ways, the ideal would have been if Peter expressed his faith in Jesus and then walked to Him without faltering.  But, in other ways, this is the ideal story, in that it reveals the depth of Jesus’ mercy and compassion.  It reveals that Jesus will catch us and draw us out of our doubts and fears when our faith gives way.  This story is much more about Jesus’ compassion and the extent of His help than it is about Peter’s lack of faith.