From SFS Bible Diary
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St Alexis (5th century) was the only son of a rich Roman senator. From his good Christian parents, he learned to be charitable to the poor. Alexis wanted to give up his wealth and honours but his parents had chosen a rich bride for him. Because it was their will, he married her. Yet right on his wedding day, he obtained her permission to leave her for God. Then, in disguise, he traveled to Syria in the East and lived in great poverty. Later he lived in his own house in disguise as a beggar. He is the patron of Alexian Brothers
Reflection: Jesus gives a short discourse to his disciples prior to sending them on mission saying, "I have not come to bring peace but a sword," he is not threatening his disciples. Rather he is teaching them to set priorities. In the modern age, when girls and boys think of the life of the missionaries, they feel that it is too demanding to leave parents and loved ones. But come to think of some good business, attractive salaries, studying abroad, lucrative jobs, etc. they do not mind leaving their parents and loved ones. How are they able to leave everything then? What matters is the priorities we set in life. You commit to something which you love and cherish. In this perspective, Jesus is teaching us that when we dedicate our life to a cause, there will be oppositions than appreciations. This could break relationships. If the convictions are strong, we find life or else we lose it.
St. Bruno was the Bishop of Segni. He left that see to re-enter the monastic-life, becoming the abbot of Monte Cassino. Bruno’s theologial work on the Holy Eucharist set the standard for centuries. He was canonized in 1183.
Reflection: Chorazin and Bethsaida are the towns at the north of the Sea of Galilee, where the ministry of Jesus was sufficiently undertaken. But it appears there was widespread rejection of God in these cities. They had the opportunity to repent but they did not. On the other hand, Tyre and Sidon are two gentile cities known for their unjust and excessive wealth. These gentile cities were not privileged enough to receive the mercy of God as much as the Israelites did. The ‘woe’ of Jesus announces God’s disapproval and judgement on a disobedient and unresponsive people. There is a tone of frustration in this ‘woe,’ and hence the comparison with the gentile cities. Yet Jesus does not stop his missionary activities among the Israelites. He declared, ‘I am sent for the house of Israelites.’ There is a caring heart in this ‘woe,’ inviting people to repent. Repentance determines whether God is experienced as a judge or a Saviour. God’s mercy toward humanity is expressed through Jesus, who is one with the Father.
St Arsenius the Great, was a Roman imperial tutor who became an anchorite in Egypt. He was one of the most highly regarded of the Desert Fathers, whose teachings were greatly influential on the development of asceticism and the contemplative life.
Reflection: The gospel presents Jesus as a revealer of God’s love and a liberator of the oppressed. Often, it is the leaders and the elite who refuse to recognize God’s ways and purposes. They were protective of their strongly attached knowledge drawn from the law, therefore, they were less open to the changes Jesus made. When Jesus came as a revealer of God’s Mercy, their intellectual pride did not allow them to accept him. Jesus does not condemn the intellectuals but their pride. He acknowledges God’s revelation not to the powerful but to the receptive, marginal infants. When he preached, healed and worked miracles, it was those simple people who believed and followed him. We may be as wise as Solomon, but if we do not have the simplicity and innocence of a child, we shut ourselves from God’s revelation. What is needed is our inner disposition to listen to Jesus. This disposition will lead us to understand the relation between the Father and the son.
Joseph Barsabbas or Justus is one of two candidates qualified to be chosen for the office of apostle after Judas Iscariot lost his apostleship when he betrayed Jesus. After the casting of lots he was not chosen, the lot instead favoured Matthias to be numbered with the eleven apostles.
Reflection: The invitation of Jesus, "come to me" is synonymous with the term "follow me." This invitation is mainly for the people who find their life’s burden too heavy on account of diseases, debts, hard labour, harassment, oppression and helplessness. Such people are driven to despair. His words, "My yoke is easy, My burden is light," definitely ignites a ray of hope in their helplessness. However, Jesus is not inviting them to escape from their burden, but invites them to see how a burden has to be carried. The burdens are always heavy, but Jesus will teach us how to carry it in love. Love makes even the heaviest burden light. There is an old story told of a man who came across a little boy carrying a still smaller boy who was lame upon his back. That’s a heavy burden for you to carry" said the man. "That’s not a burden," came the answer, "He is my own brother." The burden which is given in love and carried in love is always light. Our approach to life is more important than the means we find to liberate from it
St Lawrence (1559-1619) was born in Naples. After his basic education he entered the Capuchin Order. As a renowned preacher he travelled throughout Europe and wrote many works to explain the Catholic Faith. He was papal nuncio to Bavaria. He died on his birthday in Lisbon.
Reflection: Laws are essential to Human Life. If you keep the law, the law will keep you. It gives protection to the human beings in the face of irregularities and gives order in the face of chaos. However, the law is blind. The Scribes and Pharisees were very particular in keeping the law, in its letter and spirit. They did it with good intentions. But Jesus challenges them in todays Gospel. It is not that Jesus is challenging the law or the practice of it, but the wrong priority placed in the observance of the law at the cost of human needs. The law of love is what is to reign supreme. The law is blind but the executioners of the law should have a heart, a heart that recognizes the right priorities in life. The value of life and the love of life should be the guiding mark for all Christians in practicing the rules and regulations.
St Mary Magdalen was one of the disciples of Christ and was present at his death. She is the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. Devotion to her spread throughout the Western Church especially in the 12th Century
Reflection: We have only very few references to Mary Magdalene in the Gospels. She was the one out of whom seven demons were cast out (Mk 16,9). Some scholars think that she was the sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus at Simon’s house (Lk 7, 36-50) and some think that she is the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Jn 11, 1-12,13). These are speculations, but one thing is certain that she loved the Lord with sincere heart. She was present at the crucifixion (Mk 15,40) and burial of Jesus (Mk 15,47). And she runs to the tomb in the early morning of the third day. She gives expression to her intense love for the Lord in trying to be close to the Lord at every time. That intense love for the Lord is amply rewarded when the risen Lord appeared first to Mary Magdalene. The Lord reveals himself to the one who seeks him with a sincere heart.
Reflection: The presence of evil in the world discourages many. If God is so good and has created everything for good, why so much evil in this world? In spite of God’s goodness and in spite of the hard works of many good people, why is that the kingdom which Jesus promised has not yet come in to this world? We long for a perfect world, a redeemed world. But the reality is that of the co existence of good and bad in this world, in the society in the families and even within oneself. That reality and the utmost patience of God with the evil is the point of reflection for us in today’s Gospel which speaks of the parable of the wheat and weeds. The master has sown only the good seeds expecting a good harvest. But the power of Satan, the enemy, has sown also the seeds of evil. From the part of the master of the field there is an option to weed out the weeds. But since it involves the danger of uprooting the wheat, he allows it to grow. Our world is not a perfect world but God is in control. God is extremely patient with the world and even of the evils in this world. A time will come when the evil will be separated from the good and be destroyed. However, we have no authority to judge over the other because our judgement can be mistaken. We submit to the authority of God, who has planted us in this world to be good, to produce good harvest.
St Christina the Astonishing (1150 – 1224) was born to a pagan family, the youngest of three daughters, in Brustem (nearSint-Truiden, Belgium). She suffered a massive seizure when she was in her early 20s. Her condition was so severe that witnesses assumed she had died. A funeral was held, but during the service, she arose, stupefying with amazement the whole city of Sint-Truiden. She is the patron of people with mental disorders and mental health workers.
Reflection: Jesus worked many miracles, which are also called as signs, during his life time. But never has he done it to make propaganda of himself, to prove himself, but rather to preach the kingdom of God. The people come to him further for some more signs so that they could believe in him. But Jesus refuses to perform any miracles to strengthen their faith. Jesus never works a miracle so that the people could believe, or to generate the faith. Faith is the pre-requisite to see the miracles of Jesus than the miracle producing faith. In our lives too, Jesus works miracles and it is faith that recognizes them. Instead of looking for the extraordinary signs from the Lord to believe in him what is required of us is to believe in him who reveals himself through the small and great miracles in our daily life.