We have a whole new set of lepers today, people whom we ostracize, whom we exclude and excommunicate, declare unclean and push aside.


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Today, we have another account of Jesus cleansing a leper. There is a part of each one of us that is like the leper, in need of healing. Once we recognize that we are all in need of healing, God will have compassion on us. Then again, once God shows compassion to us, we should want to show compassion to each other…in fact, to everyone on the planet.

We have a whole new set of lepers today, people whom we ostracize, whom we exclude and excommunicate, declare unclean and push aside. In our culture, we ostracize people on death row, people with AIDS, people with disabilities, people who are Muslim, or people are just different. We often think they are the cause of our problems: let’s push them aside or imprison them or ignore their sufferings; or kill them and get rid of them.  Then, we will be OK; we’ll be safe, we’ll be secure. But, like Jesus, we must side with the lepers of our time, cultivate a heart of compassion, stretch out our hands and welcome them into our community.

Look at this:

·         Paul was once a “leper” to Christians, a persecutor of those who followed Jesus. He was converted but the community didn’t believe it, and wouldn’t allow Paul into the circle of Christians. Barnabas was convinced of Paul’s genuine, authentic conversion and persuaded the community. The best way Paul could give evidence of his healing from “leprosy” was to produce good fruit and so glorify God.

·         Mark was a “leper” in that he deserted the first Christian missionary journey. Barnabas gave Mark another chance. While Paul refused to believe that Mark was genuinely healed and ready to evangelize again, Barnabas believed in Mark. The best way Mark could give evidence of his healing was to produce good fruit and so glorify God.

Healed and converted “lepers” are accountable to God, not man. They need not prove themselves before men. However, some people need evidence of full conversion and healing, and the best evidence is fruit, that is, undeniable holiness and good works for His kingdom.

We have to reconcile with everyone everywhere. Only then, like Jesus, will we become people of infinite compassion!

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The greatness of John the Baptist is seen in the great emphasis given to the announcement of his birth!


 

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In today’s gospel, Luke describes the birth and circumcision of John because it is linked to the birth and circumcision of Jesus.

John was called to be the precursor of Jesus from his mother’s womb. Both children grew and became strong in spirit. Then John began to preach a baptism of repentance always asserting that he was preparing the way for one greater than himself. Eventually Jesus came to seek baptism from his kinsman.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the light of life to his people.

The greatness of John the Baptist is seen in the great emphasis given to the announcement of his birth and the event itself: both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. Except for Mary, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation than John the Baptist. Yet, the least in the Kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than John the Baptist, for the gift of salvation that God gives.

John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity:  total dependence on God, in Christ. The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil, all stem from his fundamental placement of his life within the will of God. And this is not something, which was only true long ago in the past.  It is always true, because the repentance which he preached always remains the way into the kingdom which he announced. John is always relevant because he calls for a preparation and repentance, which all of us need to make on daily basis!

Pray, fast, give alms, all in the secret silence of your heart, offering every effort for the glory of Jesus.


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The message of Jesus in today’s Gospel is simple, straightforward, and clear.

Do what you do because it is the right thing to do. Do not seek recognition or reward for doing what you ought. Just do it.

Pray, fast, give alms, all in the secret silence of your heart, offering every effort for the glory of Jesus. Your reward for doing so will be the certain knowledge that you have done what is right and proper–you have pleased God.

Prayer is not some secret language of fancy phrases; there aren’t any magic formulae to make God hear us, or act upon our requests. When we speak to God in our everyday normal speaking language, we are praying. Jesus prayed constantly and talked a lot about prayer. He knew that prayer releases God’s power into any situation and renews our spiritual strength to handle anything in life. Whenever the pressure on Him became overwhelming, Jesus went to a private place and prayed. But, just as He knew that God was the source of His strength, Jesus knew, equally well, that God is always poised, ready to help us in times of trouble. He may not release us from a trial, but stand with us as we go through it. We may be in dire circumstances; but we should always know that God is there with us. If we really, really trust Him, God has promised that everything will work out for our ultimate welfare.

Who is one person you consider to be an enemy? Hate for hate’s sake only intensifies the existence of evil in the world.


 

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Today’s readings give us a challenge.

Is our love for God and neighbor genuine? Or is it halfhearted and extended when it’s convenient for us?

Jesus Himself, in today’s gospel, advises us to love not only our friends, but our enemies as well. That’s a pretty tall order. Are we ready to step up to the challenge?

Love your enemies! Over the centuries, many people have argued that this is an extremely difficult . Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move into the actual practice of this glorious command. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus was the practical realist.  And now the words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. This command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for our enemies!

It’s also necessary that we go into the question of why we should love our enemies: because hate for hate’s sake only intensifies the existence of evil in the world. Somewhere, somebody must have a little sense and that’s the strong person. The strong person is that who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. The tragedy of hate is that it intensifies the existence of evil in the universe. We simply must have enough faith to cut it off and inject, within the very structure of the universe, the strong and powerful element of love for our enemies.

Think for a minute.

Who is one person you consider to be an enemy? It may be someone you know personally, or perhaps you know of this person only through news accounts. Jesus is asking for your Christian love and concern for this person, and for your prayers as well.

You can start right now, to pray for this person:

O Lord, help me to love my enemies, especially ______________, I lift up not only my family and loved ones and friends, but also _______________. May Your blessings come upon ______________, and may You enlarge my heart to encompass __________, just as Your heart does! For You died not only for me and for my loved ones, You died for _________ as well. May You bless ___________ and bring him/her to eternal life with You in Heaven! Amen.

Possibly more than any other saying of Jesus, this sums up what it means to be a Christian.


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“When someone strikes you on your right cheek, then turn the other one to him as well.” (Matthew 5:39)


Turn the other cheek! Possibly more than any other saying of Jesus, this sums up what it means to be a Christian. Does Jesus want us to be doormats, suckers who allow ourselves to be taken advantage of by every bully and gangster, who walk into our lives?


Why would we be advised to turn the other cheek? Aren’t we supposed to love ourselves, have some self-respect? Aren’t we supposed to fight evil? It is difficult to give absolute reasons, but there are several important ones. The message of Christ is always about love. We aren’t acting in a loving way when we strike back at a person. Besides, who are we to judge the motives of another person? Only God would understand the motives of that other person.

Then, there is also the issue of free will–the choices we make. We are called to act at a higher level than our animal instinct to strike back. That is what my cats do.

Then there is the example of Christ in the most horrific situation of His crucifixion, Who prayed to our Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Reading this in the gospel is easy; following the message is not, but that is our calling. With the help of God’s graces, let us do so. Christ died on the cross to redeem all people, not just the ones who are nice to us.

Without faith, David would never have asked for God’s forgiveness. Neither would have the penitent woman of this Gospel, whose great faith and love so pleased Jesus.


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The readings this Sunday underline the importance of our faith–faith in the dying and rising of Jesus Christ for our sins, and faith in the mercy of God toward sinners. God is much more concerned about our faith than He is about our sins!

The common theme of God’s unbelievable mercy ties together the First Reading about King David’s plea for forgiveness and the Gospel which is all about the uninvited woman who bursts into the Pharisee’s house to anoint the feet of Jesus!

David, the best king in all of Israel’s history, had nevertheless given in to lustful desires. His desire for Bathsheba was so uncontrolled that he deliberately had her husband murdered, then took this attractive woman for his own pleasure. When the prophet, Nathan, very bravely confronted David about this sin, the King broke down and begged forgiveness of God. Considering all the great favors God had bestowed on David–protecting him from Saul, providing divine assistance against David’s enemies, and giving him a glorious kingdom–the king had already seriously offended God by his ingratitude. Add to this his serious sins of murder and adultery, and we are amazed that the Lord still loved David, and forgave him!

The Gospel concerns Jesus at a banquet in the house of Simon, the Pharisee. A woman comes into the banquet room uninvited, and shocks the whole gathering by her actions. Bursting into tears, she falls at Jesus’ feet. She breaks every social rule by letting down her hair, touching this man, and even kissing his feet. Then, she pours soothing oil over those feet. Jesus not only allows her to do this, but even explains to Simon that her great faith has merited God’s forgiveness for her sins. Then, Jesus concludes with a very human touch. Jesus points out to Simon that his neglect of providing water and oil for his guests as they arrived has been more than made up for by the behavior of this woman (whom Simon obviously despises).

Where does the second reading from Galatians fit in? St. Paul’s words declare that it is faith that merits God’s forgiveness. Without faith, David would never have asked for God’s forgiveness. Neither would have the penitent woman of this Gospel, whose great faith and love so pleased Jesus. Without faith, we cannot expect to enter God’s heaven.

Does anyone in the world have anything against you? Do you have anything against them?


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“You have heard the commandment imposed on your forefathers, ‘You shall not commit murder; every murderer shall be liable to judgment.’ What I say to you is: everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21-22).

Anger, angry words, and angry thoughts are forbidden. Even if we are not angry with anyone but someone is angry with us, we must halt even our worship and “go first to be reconciled” immediately. Otherwise, we may be thrown into a prison of some sort, and we “will not be released until” we “have paid the last penny”.

Jesus seems to be over-reacting to the problem of anger. The truth is that we are under-reacting. Anger is often the open door through which the devil enters. Therefore, “the sun must not go down on your wrath; do not give the devil a chance to work on you”. Anger is frequently the root of bitterness, unforgiveness, violence, and a whole host of evils. Anger was even the root of the opposition to Jesus and resulted in His crucifixion. We must immediately take every angry thought or feeling to Jesus. He alone can save us from anger

Even if we are reconciled with everyone and everyone with us, we still must proclaim the message of reconciliation and work in the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation is such a high priority for Jesus that He reconciled “everything in His person, both on earth and in the heavens, making peace through the blood of His cross”. We as disciples of Jesus must make reconciliation a very high priority. “We implore you, in Christ’s name: be reconciled to God!”

“If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled.” —Matthew 5:23-24

 

Does anyone in the world have anything against you? Do you have anything against them? If you haven’t recently tried to reconcile with these people, stop reading this now and go do it…

If you haven’t forgiven, but are still reading, drop everything and “go first to be reconciled.” “Lose no time”. “The sun must not go down on your wrath; do not give the devil a chance to work on you”. The grace to forgive your worst enemies is available to you right now. Decide to accept this grace, or you will be handed over to the torturers. Until you forgive, you won’t even be able to pray, for Jesus taught us to pray: “Forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who wrong us”.

Right now, you can accept God’s grace to forgive all those who have hurt you in any way throughout your entire life. In fact, you must forgive or be destroyed by the poison of unforgiveness. “We implore you, in Christ’s name: be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20), be reconciled with allnow.