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THE MYSTERY OF THE SUFFERING MESSIAH

JESUS ‘STRICTLY CHARGED HIS DISCIPLES TO TELL NO ONE THAT HE WAS JESUS THE CHRIST’ (Mt 16:20) – WHY?

“Peter had acknowledged openly that Jesus is the Christ [Mt 16:15-19], the Messias. Immediately after this acknowledgement Jesus promised to make Peter the rock on which He would found His kingdom. This remarkable series of events must have brought great joy to the disciples of Jesus. Now at last they knew: Jesus was the long-awaited Messias, the Christ who would rescue His people; Jesus was the Christ Who would establish the kingdom of God on earth, and He had already chosen Peter to be the foundation stone of that kingdom. Surely they must have thought the Kingdom of God is at last at hand; this is the moment when God will begin to bring to pass the triumph of His people in the world.

WHY THIS SECRECY?

But at this moment, when they were confidently expecting Jesus to prepare His triumph as the Christ, He ‘strictly charged his disciples to tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ’ (Matthew 16:20). But why this secrecy? If Jesus is the Christ, why not publish this news abroad as swiftly as possible, from village to village, from town to city, from the plains to the mountain-tops? The sooner God’s Chosen People knew the Christ was come, the sooner would they rally to His banner and expel the hated Roman legions which kept them in subjection.

GOD’S PLAN, AND NOT OF HUMAN DEVISING

The reason which Jesus gave for secrecy must have mystified the disciples even more.

‘The Son of Man,’ He told them, ‘must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and Scribes, and be put to death, and on the third day rise again’ (Luke 9:22).

Could the Messias sent by God to establish the triumph of His people be rejected by the chief spiritual leaders of the people? If the Christ is to suffer and die, where then is His triumph? Jesus, it is true, also said that He would rise from death on the third day, and if that were true, no doubt His resurrection would be a triumphant vindication of His message to men. But such a resurrection was in itself a mysterious thing and, besides, Jesus did not enlighten them at once on the meaning of His resurrection. Peter with his usual impetuousness refused to accept the idea that the Christ would suffer and die.

‘Far be it from thee, O Lord,’ he said, ‘this will never happen to thee’ (Matthew 16:22).

If he had known or been able to recall the mysterious words of Isaias [Isaiah] about the Suffering Servant of Jahweh, if he had the spiritual insight necessary to identify the glorious King-Messias with the Suffering Servant, he might not have been so impetuous. But his mind was still filled with dreams of the glory of the Messias and he could not reconcile this picture of suffering, rejection and death with his dreams. Jesus, however, rebuked him in strong terms:

‘Get behind me, satan, thou art a scandal to me; for thou dost not mind the things of God, but those of men’ (Matthew 16:23).

In God’s plan, mysterious though it may be, the triumphant Christ must also be a rejected, suffering Christ. Peter, preoccupied with visions of an earthly triumph, did not see the depths of the divine plan. The stern rebuke of Jesus reminds him that the plan is God’s and not of human devising.

‘LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME’ (Mk 8:34)

Turning from Peter to the rest of His disciples and the crowd, Jesus tells them that all men must follow Him in His suffering if they would be saved. ‘If anyone wishes to come after me,’ He says, ‘let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me’ (Mark 8:34). Of what value are earthly glories in comparison with the salvation of one’s own soul? ‘For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?’ (Mark 8:36). A man must be prepared to lose his earthly life for the sake of Jesus and the gospel of salvation which He brings to men. If he is ashamed of a suffering Messias, ashamed of the words of Jesus, when Jesus returns as the Son of Man to judge all men then Jesus will be ashamed of him. Lest this reference to the last judgement by the Son of Man seem too remote to a people so accustomed to expect a glorious Messias, Jesus goes on to say, ‘Amen I say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death, till they have seen the kingdom of God coming in power’ (Mark 8:39). In these words Jesus foretold what later came to pass, that within thirty or forty years His kingdom had been established throughout the Roman Empire; not a worldly Kingdom, but the Kingdom of God in the hearts of those who had accepted Jesus as the Christ.

THE TRANSFIGURATION

Peter and the disciples did not understand the words of Jesus, but they remained with Him. Six days later Jesus took three of His Apostles, Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There, perhaps to reassure their faith in Him, He allowed His glory to be manifested to them. His face became radiant and His garments began to shine, white as snow. Then Elias [Elijah] and Moses appeared there and began to talk with Him about His suffering and death at Jerusalem.

‘THIS IS MY BELOVED SON…’ (Mt 17:5)

Now Jesus had already told the Jews that Moses had spoken of Him, and the Jews were expecting Elias to come as the forerunner of the Christ. Their appearance here, then, on the occasion of the transfiguration of Jesus was a sign from heaven that Jesus was the expected Messias. Peter, not quite knowing what he was doing but anxious to keep these heavenly visitors here with the Christ, said,

‘If thou wilt, let us set up three tents here, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias’ (Matthew 17:4).

But just then a radiant cloud enveloped them all in its midst, and they heard the voice of God from heaven saying to them,

‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him’ (Matthew 17:5).

And looking round they saw no one but Jesus.

THE SIGNIFICANCE

The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop could have been pregnant with meaning for the Apostles. They had accepted Jesus as the Christ, and there on the mountain in the radiant countenance and garments of Jesus they had been allowed to see the glory of the Christ. Moreover, Moses and Elias, two great prophets and heroes of their people, had come to give testimony to the identity of Jesus as the Christ. But the mystery of Jesus still remained, for though He appeared to them in glory, still Moses and Elias spoke to Him of His approaching suffering and death. How could glory and humiliation be reconciled?

And what about Elias? Was he not to be the forerunner of the Christ? Why then did he leave? Why were they asked to listen only to Jesus, God’s beloved Son? Filled with a sense of awe, but still wondering, they asked Jesus about Elias. Jesus replied to them that Elias had already come in the person of John the Baptist. Elias would not come in person; he was only the prototype of John the Baptist. And the Baptist had already been put to death for preaching the gospel of repentance. So also would Jesus, the Son of Man, be put to death.

MANIFESTATION OF DIVINE POWER

On the following day, after they had come down from the mountain, the crowd brought to Jesus a boy who was possessed by a devil. Apparently the father of the boy had asked the disciples of Jesus to expel the demon. But they had failed to do so. Jesus spoke to the father of the boy, saying,

‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him who believes’ (Mark 9:22).

The father cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:23). Thereupon Jesus rebuked the devil and left the boy.

The disciples, who had been unsuccessful in their attempt to relieve the boy, asked Jesus why they had not been able to expel the demon. Jesus told them that it was due to their lack of faith and to the fact that this demon could be cast out only by prayer and fasting.

This further manifestation of divine power must have strengthened the faith of the disciples in Jesus. But Jesus, for His part, cautioned His disciples once again that He must suffer and die and rise again on the third day. But they, believing in Him as they did and faced with these displays of His power, did not understand what He meant.

THE GREATEST IN HIS KINGDOM

Following this miracle Jesus went with His disciples to a house in Capharnaum where He continued instructing them in the nature of His kingdom. While on their way there the disciples had been discussing with one another which of them was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Their discussion of this topic shows that they were still thinking of the kingdom of Jesus as a worldly kingdom. Jesus had already said that He would make Simon Peter the rock of His kingdom [Mt 16:17-19]. Perhaps some of the other Apostles were wondering why he should have been chosen for this honour in preference to someone else. Certainly they were all wondering what position each should occupy.

Jesus took this occasion to teach them that humility would be one of the characteristics of the members of His kingdom. Taking a little child into His arms, He said to them,

‘Unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever, therefore, humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me’ (Matthew 18:3-5).

HUMILITY IS ONE OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MEMBERS OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM

The lesson is given affectionately buy clearly. In the kingdom of Christ the Apostles must be like little children, not priding themselves on position or power, but humbly serving others, ready to see the Christ Himself in all the ‘little’ ones of the world and receiving in love all the ‘little’ ones of the earth as if they were Christ Himself.

‘DO NOT FORBID HIM’

John, still remembering that Jesus had just cast a devil out of a boy, interrupted and said: ‘Master, we saw a man casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us’ (Luke 9:49).

Jesus replied, ‘Do not forbid him, because there is no one who shall work a miracle in my name, and forthwith be able to speak ill of me. For he who is not against you is for you’ (Mark 9:38-39).

In these words Jesus taught the Apostles the lesson of tolerance. Even though a man might not yet be a member of the kingdom, following openly after Christ and Peter as did the other disciples, if he had enough faith to invoke the name of Jesus to work miracles, he was already on the right road; he would not speak evil of the Christ.

‘FLEE FROM SIN’

After this reply to John Jesus went on to speak of the evils of scandal. Those who give scandal, that is, those who by their words or actions lead others into sin, will be severely punished; it were better for such a one ‘if a great millstone were hung about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea’ (Mark 9:41).

As for the disciples themselves, they must flee from scandal in the actions of others. If they would enter into everlasting life with God, they must flee from sin. On this point the language of Jesus is very strong. If a hand or a foot or an eye should be to them an occasion of sin, He tells them, they must rather cut it off or pluck it out, rather than fall into sin. It is better to enter into life with God maimed or blind rather than to descend into the everlasting fires of hell.

THE SON OF MAN HAS COME INTO THIS WORLD TO SAVE ALL MEN FROM SIN

This thought of the final end of man, either heaven or hell, leads Jesus to emphasise once again the nature of His mission. He has come into this world to save what was lost, that is, all mankind. Speaking again of the ‘little’ ones of the world, He says,

‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father in heaven. For the Son of Man came to save what is lost. What do you think? If a man have hundred sheep, and one of them stray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains, and go in search of the one that has strayed? And if he happens to find it, amen I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that a single one of these little ones should perish’ (Matthew 13:10-14).

The Son of Man has come into this world to save all men from sin.

THE POWER TO FORGIVE SIN

This in turn leads Jesus on to the thought of the forgiveness of sin. He has already claimed to have the power to forgive sin. If any of your brethren sin, He tells His Apostles, go to him and try to correct him. If he will not listen, then take one or two more with you and try again. If he still will not listen, let the Church speak to him; and if he will not hear the Church, then let him be put out of the Church. Then Jesus speaks the words which give to all His Apostles the power to forgive sin, ‘Amen I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven’ (Matthew 18:18).

In this way Jesus gives to the other Apostles a share in the power which He has already promised to Peter.

The power to forgive sin is a tremendous power indeed, but Jesus goes on to say that the prayer of His kingdom or Church will be able to accomplish anything.

‘I say to you further, that if two of you shall agree on earth about anything at all for which they ask, it shall be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:19-20). Though Jesus speaks only of two or three, He means by those words to speak of His Church. For He is speaking in the context of His discourses to His Apostles on the nature of His kingdom. In that kingdom or Church, of which Peter is to be the head, and in which all the Apostles will possess the power to forgive sins, then whenever the members are gathered together in the name and for the sake of Christ, God in heaven will hear their prayers. The prayer of the Church, that is, of all those who profess allegiance to the Christ under Peter and the Apostles, will be all powerful.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD THEY FORGIVE SOMEBODY THEIR SINS?

Peter, meanwhile, had been intrigued by the question of the forgiveness of sin. How often, he was wondering, should they forgive a man his sins. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Clearly to Peter seven was an upper limit to the forgiveness of sins. But Jesus replied that he must forgive his brother even to seventy times seven, thus intimating that God placed no upper limit on the forgiveness of sins; a man was to be forgiven as often as he would listen to the Church and repent of his sins.

THE PARABLE OF THE UNMERCIFUL SERVANT

To enforce this point Jesus then told the parable of the unmerciful servant. The kingdom of heaven, He said, is like a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. It was discovered that one of his servants, that is, one of his more important ministers, had defrauded him of ten thousand talents, that is, over several million dollars. Since he had not enough money to pay back this enormous debt, the king ordered him, his wife and children to be sold as payment. The minister begged for mercy, and the king not only released him but forgave him the debt. Sin is as enormous in its moral guilt as the sum stolen by the king’s minister was financially great. But God forgives sin as generously as the king forgave his servant.

But the parable does not end here. Jesus goes on to say that the servant who had been forgiven went out and found another servant who owed him an insignificant amount of money. Instead of extending to his fellow servant the kind mercy he has himself received from the king, the unmerciful servant had him thrown into prison until the debt was paid. On hearing of this ungenerous act the king then handed the first servant over to the torturers until the debt was paid. Sternly Jesus points out the lesson: ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if you do not forgive your brothers from your heart’ (Matthew 18:25). As God’s mercy and generosity to sinners is infinite, so also the mercy of His Church must be infinite.

THE MERCY OF GOD’S CHURCH MUST BE INFINITE

If we couple this point with the injunction of Jesus to cast out of the Church the unrepentant sinner, the meaning becomes clear. In the kingdom of heaven, in the Church of the Christ, no one is to be a scandal, a cause of sin to another; no one is to be scandalised, that is, led into sin by another; all must avoid sin to save their souls and enter life everlasting. But if anyone sin, then he must repent; if he repents, the mercy of God is infinite. But if he will not repent, he must be cast out so that his sinfulness will not be a scandal to others. This does not mean that the unrepentant one may never be forgiven. It does mean that he cannot be forgiven or readmitted until he has repented.

JESUS HAD EMPHASISED THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF HIS KINGDOM

In these discourses with His Apostes Jesus had emphasised the spiritual nature of His kingdom. The goal of His kingdom is entrance into the everlasting life of God. To enter the kingdom men must accept Jesus as the Christ, the Messias, the beloved Son of God. They must believe His words. They must believe in His glory, but they must also believe in His suffering and death and in His resurrection. They must accept the mystery of a Messias Who is both triumphant and humiliated. To remain in His kingdom they must avoid all sin. Peter will be the ruler, the key-bearer of the kingdom, but the Apostles will share in his power under him. Especially will they be able to forgive the sins of men, thus admitting them or, as the case may be, re-admitting them to the Kingdom of God.

THEIR FAITH IN HIM PERSEVERED

The Apostles did not comprehend the full meaning of all that Jesus told them. They were still in need of further instruction from Him. In fact they would not reconcile their dream of a triumphant Christ with Jesus’ prophecy of the suffering Christ until after Jesus had suffered and died. But for the moment their faith in Him persevered and so they continued to follow Him, in darkness, it is true, but still in hope.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE CHRIST AND HIS KINGDOM

MATTHEW 8

“After concluding the Sermon on the Mount Jesus left the mountainside and returned to Capharnaum. Now there was at Capharnaum a centurion, an officer in the Roman army, who had been very kind to the Jews. At his own expense he had built a synagogue for the Jews of the town. At the moment one of his servants was dying. Having heard of the wonderful cures worked by Jesus, he sent some of the elders of the Jews to ask Jesus to cure his servant.

THE CENTURION

Jesus was moved by their plea and started toward the home of the centurion. But the centurion was too humble to expect Jesus, the great wonderworker, to enter his house, and so he said to Him: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, and have soldiers subject to me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’

Jesus was moved to admiration at the great faith of this man, who was not a Jew. And so He said: ‘Amen I say to you, I have not found such great faith in Israel. And I tell you that many will come from the east and from the west, and will feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be put forth into the darkness outside; there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.’ Then He said to the centurion, ‘Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee’ (Matthew 8:5-13).

And the servant of the centurion was cured in that hour.

A HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT INCIDENT

This incident in the ministry of Jesus is highly significant. Like the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman it shows us Jesus dealing with a non-Jew. Thus it foreshadows the acceptance of the Gentile or non-Jewish world into the kingdom of heaven to be established by Jesus. But here Jesus states clearly that He and His kingdom will be rejected for the most part by the Jews, His own people, but will be accepted by many from the world of the Gentiles. Jesus knew from the beginning that He would not be accepted by the majority of His own people, but that His person and His message would find a response in the minds and hearts of the other nations of the world. In this present instance, the faith of the pagan centurion and the gracious response of Christ to this faith show that the kingdom of heaven will be universal in its inner nature and scope; salvation will now be extended to the whole world.

THE WIDOW’S DEAD SON AT NAIM

Soon after this there occurred the first great resurrection miracle worked by Jesus. At the village of Naim a widow was burying her only son. Jesus came upon the funeral cortege. His gentle heart took compassion on the grief and the real loss of the widowed mother and he stopped the procession. Then he spoke to the dead man, saying, ‘Young man, I say to thee, arise.’ And immediately the young man returned to life, sat up and began to speak (Luke 7:11-15).

By giving life back to this dead man Jesus showed that He had power over life and death.

‘ART THOU HE WHO IS TO COME, OR SHALL WE LOOK FOR ANOTHER?’ (Mt 11:3)

The news of these wonderful deeds of Jesus spread abroad through the country. Word of them was brought to John the Baptist in prison at Machaerus. Thereupon John sent two of his own disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Art thou he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Matthew 11:3).

WHY DID JOHN THE BAPTIST ASK THIS?

Since John himself had already recognised Jesus as the Christ, the Messias, it is not easy to fathom the meaning of this action. Had he been expecting Jesus to proceed more rapidly with the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth? Was his question a mild complaint at the apparent slowness with which Jesus was accomplishing His mission? Or might it not be that John, sensing that his own mission was nearly at an end, wished his disciples to find out at first hand that Jesus was the long awaited Messias? With this in mind might he not have sent some of them to Jesus to ask this very question, ‘Art thou He Who is to come?’ that is, ‘Art thou the Messias?’

‘THE BLIND SEE, THE LAME WALK, THE LEPERS ARE CLEANSED…’ (Mt 11:4-5)

The answer of Jesus is clear. ‘Go,’ He says to John’s disciples, ‘and report to John what you have heard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them’ (Matthew 11:4-5).

In these words Jesus applied to Himself the prophecy of Isaias [Isaiah]. According to Isaias these wonderful happenings would take place in the time of the Messias. In effect then Jesus was saying to the disciples of John that He was the Messias, accomplishing the work of the Messias.

JOHN THE BAPTIST, THE ELIAS WHOM GOD HAD SENT

When the messengers of John had departed Jesus addressed Himself to the crowd which had witnessed the episode. He told them that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet sent by God to His Chosen People. John was, as it were, the Elias whom God had sent to announce the coming of the Messias and the imminent establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.

‘YOU WILL REJECT ME FOR SEEKING TO SAVE PUBLICANS AND SINNERS’

Those in the crowd who had listened to John’s urgings to repentance and had accepted baptism from John rejoiced at this news. But the Pharisees and the Scribes who had rejected John rejected even Christ’s commendation of him. This led Jesus to speak sadly of His own rejection by His own people. To what shall I liken this generation of men, He complains sadly. You have rejected John and you will reject me, the Son of Man. In your pride, in your complacency, in your own fancied purity, you will reject me for seeking to save publicans and sinners.

‘THY SINS ARE FORGIVEN’ (Lk 7:48)

Soon after this, Jesus accepted an invitation to dine at the house of one of the Pharisees. While there His feet were washed with tears and ointment by a known sinful woman. The Pharisee was scandalised that Jesus should thus allow a sinful woman to approach and touch Him. Jesus took the occasion to repeat again that love was the secret law and foundation of His kingdom. The generous action of the sinful woman was the outward manifestation of her great love for Jesus and for God. Love of God is the means to forgiveness of sin. Hence Jesus said to the woman, ‘Thy sins are forgiven… Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace’ (Luke 7:48, 50)

LOVE IS THE SECRET LAW AND FOUNDATION OF HIS KINGDOM

The Pharisee and his guests missed the lesson of love and its great power. Instead they chose to concentrate upon the enormity of Christ’s claim to forgive sins. ‘Who is this man,’ they exclaimed incredulously, ‘who even forgives sins?'(Luke 7:49).”

‘THE KINGDOM IS LIKE A MUSTARD SEED’

After this, Jesus continued His work of journeying through the towns and villages of Galilee, preaching the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God. During this preaching journey Jesus spoke in parables of the nature of the kingdom He was establishing. He compared the establishment of the kingdom to a man who sowed seed, the growth of the kingdom to the growth of the seed, the extent of the kingdom to the full growth of a mustard seed or the work of leaven in flour. He compared the desirability of the kingdom to hidden treasure or a pearl of great price. He compared the members of the kingdom here on earth to the wheat and the weeds which grow in the farmer’s field until the harvest and to the good and the bad fish which are brought out of the sea in the fisherman’s net.

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWING OF SEED

In these parables Jesus did not give a full description of the nature of the kingdom of heaven. But He did make clear certain aspects of His kingdom. In the parable of the sowing of seed, some seed fell on the wayside where it was devoured by birds; some on rocky ground where it could not establish itself strongly; some among thorns which choked it as it tried to grow; and only some on good ground which flourished and grew to maturity – in this parable, as Jesus points out, becoming a member of His kingdom does not automatically mean that a man will achieve the ultimate salvation which is the goal of the kingdom. Many men will listen to the word of God which Jesus preaches and will believe it. But some of them will be weak and they will lose their faith through the deceits of the devil or through their own weakness and sinful love for the pleasures of this world. This not only shows us that faith, once it is given by God, must be preserved freely and with strong effort; it also intimates that at any moment of time the kingdom of heaven on earth will include among its members those of strong and those of weak faith.

THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

In the parable of the seed which grows secretly during the night and surprises the farmer on the next day by the extent of its growth, Jesus seems to be emphasising the spirituality of the Kingdom of God. As the growth of the seed hidden in the earth is for some time unnoticed by the farmer, so also will be the growth of the Kingdom of God on earth. Because it is chiefly a spiritual kingdom, establishing its reign in the hidden souls of men, its growth will not be noticeable fully to the world. But when it is fully grown, at harvest time, that is, at the end of the world, God will manifest its full growth to the world. In this parable then Christ is both teaching positively the spiritual nature of His kingdom and teaching negatively that the Jewish expectation of the establishment of a mighty earthly and temporal Kingdom of God is not involved in the divine plan.

THE PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN

The parable of the leaven also pictures the Kingdom of God as a hidden force, working within the souls of men to bring about the redemption of mankind. Leaven, working unseen within the flour, causes the bread to rise. The doctrine of the Kingdom of God and the graces working within that kingdom through an inner conviction of its truth will raise up a people dedicated to God for all eternity.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH IS VISIBLE

Yet, while the Kingdom of God is spiritual, and its growth invisible and due to invisible forces, still it is also visible. The parables of the mustard seed, of the field in which both good and bad seed are sown, and of the net which catches both good and bad fish, make it clear that the kingdom will be visible in this world.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS UNIVERSAL IN ITS MEMBERSHIP

The parable of the mustard seed shows also that the Kingdom of God will be universal in its membership. Just as the mature mustard tree houses birds of all kinds, so also the Kingdom of God will be the home of all the races of men. Beginning like a small mustard seed the kingdom will grow into a large tree in which all men may take shelter.

THE KINGDOM OFFERS SHELTER TO ALL MEN

The parables of the field in which good and bad seed are sown and of the net which draws up both good and bad fish make the interesting point that the Kingdom of God in this present world will embrace both good and bad men. Visibly then the kingdom will seem to be composed of good and evil men. But at the end of the world God will separate the good from the evil and send the evil into everlasting fire, while the good will rejoice with God in the eternal kingdom of heaven. Perhaps Jesus is saying here that men should not be scandalised at the appearance of evil in the visible kingdom here on earth. Men should imitate the patience of God, Who at the end will render justice according to men’s work on earth.

JESUS THUS DESCRIBES HIS CHURCH, THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH

The kingdom which Jesus preaches is not the kingdom which the people generally were expecting. It will not be a great and powerful earthly kingdom, established suddenly and terribly by the manifest power of God, a kingdom in which all nations are subjected to the temporal dominion of the Jews. It will be a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom growing through the invisible power of God, a kingdom founded on the doctrine preached by Jesus and accepted in faith by men of all races, a kingdom which will grow slowly but widely in the world of men. In this present world both good and evil will be found among its members. But at the end Jesus Himself, the Son of Man, will separate the good from the evil. The evil will be punished, but the good will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of God their Father.

MAN MUST BE PREPARED TO SACRIFICE EVERYTHING – THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE

After giving this brief description of some of the characteristics of His kingdom, Jesus, in a few short sentences, describes how desirable this kingdom is. ‘The kingdom of heaven,’ He says, ‘is like a treasure hidden in a field; a man who finds it hides it, and in his joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he finds a single pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it’ (Matthew 13:44-46).

So desirable is this kingdom that a man must be prepared to sacrifice everything for membership in it.

JESUS STILLS THE TEMPEST

After describing the nature of His kingdom in these parables Jesus continued his work of founding the kingdom. He preached again at Capharnaum. Then He set sail across the Lake of Genesareth. During the night, while He slept, a tempest arose and threatened to swamp the boat. His disciples awakened Him and called upon Him to save them. At the command of Jesus the tempest was stilled.

MORE MIRACLES AND HEALINGS

On the other side of the lake Jesus was met by a poor man who was possessed by unclean spirits. At the command of Jesus the spirits left the man and he was restored to himself. In this case it would seem that Jesus had once again a miracle for a Gentile, thus showing that the power of His kingdom was to be available to the non-Jewish world. This miracle is also interesting because Jesus is addressed by the evil spirits as Jesus, ‘Son of the most high God.’

On returning to Capharnaum Jesus cured a woman of a haemorrhage of blood which had afflicted her for twelve years. It is worth noting that this woman had been treated for this ailment by doctors, but to no avail.

Following this, Jesus restored to life the daughter of Jairus. This was the second of the resurrection miracles performed by Him. On leaving Capharnaum Jesus was met by two blind men to whom He restored their sight simply by touching their eyes. On the same occasion He also expelled a devil from another possessed man.

RETURN TO NAZARETH

After these miracles Jesus probably returned to Nazareth, His own town. This time He was received poorly. There is evidence that His fellow-townsmen may have resented the fact that He had worked miracles in and around Capharnaum, but had not done so at Nazareth, His own home town. At any rate they refused to believe in Him, which led Jesus to remark,

‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own country and in his own house’ (Matthew 13:57).

JESUS SENT HIS APOSTLES

Leaving Nazareth He travelled through the towns and villages of Galilee, preaching and curing every kind of disease and infirmity. Seeing that the people were sorely in need of help, like sheep without a shepherd, He took compassion on them and determined to send His Apostles to help them.

‘The harvest indeed is abundant,’ He said, ‘but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into the harvest’ (Luke 10:2).

JESUS SAID THAT HIS APOSTLES WILL BE MET WITH OPPOSITION

Then He gave His Apostles power over unclean spirits, and power to cure diseases and infirmities, and sent them forth two by two to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. They were to go forth on their missionary journey as poor men, trusting in the providence of God. In His instructions to the Apostles Jesus sounds once again the warning that His doctrine will be rejected by many. His Apostles, He says, will meet with opposition; they will be persecuted for His sake. But this is only what men do to Jesus Himself. They are not, therefore, to be afraid of men. God, Who watches over the sparrows of the air, will watch over them. Everyone who receives the word of the Apostles and acknowledges Jesus before men will be acknowledged by Jesus before God. Those who reject Him will be disowned by Him before God the Father. Finally, Jesus gives to the Apostles a share in His own authority to preach the Kingdom of God.

‘He who receives you,’ He says, ‘receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me’ (Matthew 10:40-42).

The Apostles thereupon set forth to preach the gospel of repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. Using the power given them by Christ, they expelled demons from the possessed and cured the afflicted of their diseases.

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S MARTYRDOM

While Jesus and His Apostles were preaching in Galilee, at Machaerus the mission of John the Baptist, the Precursor of the Messias, was drawing to a close. John had reproached Herod Antipas for His incestuous union with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Because of these reproaches Herod had imprisoned John in the fortress of Machaerus and, except for his superstitious veneration of the holy man, would have put him to death. But the anger of his wife Herodias against John was not appeased by his imprisonment.

On the occasion of a great feast given by Herod to celebrate his birthday, Herodias found her opportunity to wreak vengeance upon John. During the course of the feast Salome, the daughter of Herodias, danced for Herod and his guests. The king was so pleased with her dancing – and, perhaps, so befuddled with the wine consumed during the banquet – that he rashly promised the girl,

‘Ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it to thee’ (Mark 6:22).

Salome consulted with Herodias. Herodias, surmising that Herod would not dare to break his word pledged before his guests, counselled Salome to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Salome returned to the king and said,

‘I want thee right away to give me on a dish the head of John the Baptist’ (Mark 6:25).

Herod reacted as Herodias had surmised he would. Though his superstitious veneration of John made him hesitate, though he was grieved at the request, nevertheless he was too much given to human respect for the opinion of others to go back on his word. He had John beheaded and gave his head on a dish to Salome. Thus John, the Precursor of the Messias, perished, a Martyr to the gospel of repentance for sin.

JESUS ONCE AGAIN TOOK PITY ON THE PEOPLE

Some time after this the Apostles returned to Jesus after their preaching tour through Galilee. Jesus, no doubt perceiving their fatigue, suggested that they should leave the crowds that besieged Him and them and go to a quiet place to rest. Thereupon they entered a boat and crossed to the other side of the sea of Galilee.

But their efforts to find a quiet place to refresh themselves were in vain. Crowds of people followed them on foot around the lake and were on hand to meet them when they arrived on the opposite shore. Jesus once again took pity on the people and preached to them and cured some who were sick.

THE MULTIPLICATION OF BREAD AND FISH

When evening approached, the Apostles asked Jesus to send the people away so that they might find food at the neighbouring villages and farms. But Jesus suggested that the Apostles themselves should feed the multitude. The Apostles felt that this was impossible. A quick canvass of their resources revealed that they possessed only five loaves of bread and two fishes. But the crowd numbered about five thousand men and an undisclosed number of women and children. It seemed obvious that the Apostles could not feed so great a multitude with their meagre supply of bread and fish.

But Jesus went ahead confidently. ‘Make the people recline,’ He said (John 6:10). When the people had reclined on the grass, Jesus blessed the bread and the fishes and gave them to His disciples to distribute. Then, to the amazement of both the disciples and the people, the bread and the fish proved inexhaustible. From hand to hand they were passed, never lessening, until all those present had received enough. And when the meal was over, twelve baskets of fragments of bread were gathered up.

The people, on seeing this marvellous multiplication of bread and fish, said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world’ (John 6:14). This manifestation of power impressed them so much that they determined to make Jesus King of the Jews.

JESUS’ TEACHING ON THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAD NOT YET BEEN UNDERSTOOD

It is apparent that the people on this occasion were ready to accept Jesus as a Messias Who would be a worldly ruler, a King Who would lead them to freedom from the Roman domination. The great miracle of multiplying the bread and the fishes showed them that Jesus had great power over nature. They would use this power to free themselves, to take vengeance on their enemies and, who knows, to dominate the world. The previous teaching of Jesus on the essentially spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God had not been understood or accepted by them. They were still imbued with the desire for worldly power and glory.

JESUS WITHDREW TO PRAY

Seeing their mood and anxious to preserve His own disciples from this faulty contagion of worldliness, Jesus made His disciples enter their boat and set out across the lake to Bethsaida. Had He Himself gone with them, the crowd would no doubt have followed Him immediately. But Jesus had no intention of further inflaming their erroneous ambitions. Hence He remained on the same side of the lake, but withdrew from the crowd and went up the mountainside to pray alone. The people settled themselves for the night as best they could.

JESUS WALKS ON WATER

Meanwhile, out on the lake a sudden storm arose. The disciples of Jesus could row only with great difficulty. By the fourth watch of the night they had gone only a little way across the lake. At that time, aware of their difficulty, set out on foot across the lake. Wishing to test the faith of the Apostles, He made as if to pass them by.

The Apostles, not believing their eyes, cried out, ‘It is a ghost’ (Matthew 14:26). Jesus then spoke to them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid’ (Matthew 14:27). For the moment, Peter’s faith and courage revived and he said, ‘Lord, if it is thou, bid me come to thee over the water’ (Matthew 14:28). When Jesus bade him to come, Peter bravely stepped out on the water. But the force of the wind and the waves affrighted him and his faith failed. He began to sink and called upon Jesus to save him. Jesus reached out and took hold of him and brought him safely to the boat, saying to him, ‘O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?’ (Matthew 14:31). When they had entered the boat, the wind fell and they reached the other shore in safety.

By thus walking on the waters Jesus gave His Apostles still another manifestation of His power over nature. The Apostles were moved to admiration and they worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly thou art the Son of God’ (Matthew 14:33).

‘SEEK THE BREAD WHICH ENDURES’

After they landed, Jesus was recognised by the people of Genesareth, and they began to bring Him their sick relatives and friends. Touched by their need, Jesus worked many cures. Then He went back to Capharnaum.

On the following day the crowd which He had left on the other side of the lake pursued Him to Capharnaum. Doubtless they were still intent upon making Him their king. But Jesus would not countenance their ambitions. Patiently He sought to enlighten them again on the true nature of His kingdom. You have sought Me, He said, because I fed you with ordinary bread. Seek not the ordinary bread which perishes; but seek the bread which endures unto life everlasting, the bread which I, the Son of Man, will give you.

The crowd did not understand Him. They ask Him, ‘What are we to do in order that we may perform the works of God?’ (John 6:28). Jesus replies, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’ (John 6:29). What Jesus asks of them, then, is not the external works which men perform in this world, but an internal act, an act of faith, an act of belief in Himself as one sent to them by God.

PEOPLE MIGHT BE UNWILLING TO GIVE UP WORLDLY HOPES IN ORDER TO RISE TO THE SPIRITUAL HEIGHTS REQUIRED BY JESUS’ DEMAND

Now the people understood very well that Jesus was asking them to do something extraordinary. They had heard His preaching, His teaching on the Kingdom of God; they had seen His mastery over nature; they knew of His claim to be able to forgive sins; they were aware that He claimed to be a Lawgiver in His own right. They had surmised that He might be the Messias. But they looked only for a Messias who would make them prosperous and powerful in this world. But it was now clear to them that Jesus was demanding to be accepted as something else, something immeasurably higher, someone superior to Moses, their great prophet and lawgiver, someone more excellent than their great and impassioned prophets. Yet He did not wish to accede to their expectations for the establishment of a great worldly kingdom of the Jews. Unable to rise to the spiritual heights required by His demand, and unwilling to give up their hopes for worldly power and domination and revenge upon their enemies, they objected to His demand. Moses, they argued, gave our forefathers manna in the desert, truly bread from heaven. You, they said, have given us only ordinary bread from the earth. Give us some other sign, some sign than that given us by Moses, so that we may believe in you.

‘GIVE US SOME GREATER SIGN, SO THAT WE MAY BELIEVE IN YOU’

Jesus replies that the true bread from heaven is that which comes down from heaven to give life to the world. When they ask Him to give them always this bread, He says to them,

‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I have told you that you have seen me and you do not believe… For this is the will of my Father who sent me, that whoever beholds the Son and believes in him shall have everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day’ (John 6:35-36, 40).

THE TRUE BREAD OF LIFE FOR THE WHOLE WORLD

Jesus Himself is, then, the true bread of life for the whole world. Men who lay hold on Him in faith shall have everlasting life, and He will raise them up on the last day. The entrance to the true Kingdom of God is Jesus Himself. To accept His Person in faith is to enter the Kingdom of God and to find life everlasting.

The people were unwilling to accept Jesus as their life. We know this man, they said; He is the son of Joseph and Mary, whom we know. How can He say that He came down from heaven.

‘HE IS THE SON OF JOSEPH AND MARY; HOW CAN HE SAY THAT HE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN?’

Jesus is aware of their murmurings against Him and He says to them that no one can come to Him unless God, His Father, draws him. But He makes still another appeal to them. He tries to substantiate His demand by telling them that He has seen God, His Father, Who has sent Him. Because He has seen the Father His words are true, and those who believe in Him will find life everlasting. Then, in the face of their disbelief, He insists:

‘I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert, and have died. This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that if anyone eat of it he will not die. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world’ (John 6:48-52).

JESUS TEACHES AN EVEN GREATER AND MORE SPIRITUAL MYSTERY

In the face of the lack of belief of the Jews Jesus enunciates an even greater and more spiritual mystery. Not only is Jesus the bread of life in the sense that man may, by faith in Him, lay hold on eternal life, but He is the bread of life in this wise that men, by eating His flesh, which is bread from heaven, may live forever.

‘HOW CAN THIS MAN GIVE US HIS FLESH TO EAT?’ (Jn 6:53)

There can be no mistake about His meaning. The Jews understood Him literally. He meant that they were to eat of His flesh, if they would gain life eternal. They objected: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ (John 6:53). Jesus refused to retract His words. On the contrary He insisted on them:

‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats of my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me. This is the bread that has come down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna and died. He who eats this bread shall live forever’ (John 6:54-59).

Many of those who had followed Him then left, for, as they said, ‘This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?’ (John 6:61).

JESUS DID NOT TAKE ANYTHING BACK OF WHAT HE SAID

Seeing that the Jews understood Him literally, and realising that they would leave Him because they could not bring themselves to accept so mysterious a doctrine, Jesus would surely have corrected their misunderstanding if they had misunderstood Him. In a matter so important to His mission as the means of attaining eternal life in the Kingdom of God, Jesus would not have spoken so obscurely as to mislead the very people He had come to save. If He did not mean to be taken literally, He could have said, for example, I do not mean that you are truly to eat My flesh and drink My blood. I mean that you must accept the divine revelation I bring you from heaven.

‘DO YOU ALSO WISH TO GO AWAY?’

But Jesus did not do this. He stood by His words, as the Jews understood them, and He allowed them to depart from Him. Then, emphasising the literal truth of His words, He turned even to His chosen Apostles and disciples and said to them: ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered Him simply: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of everlasting life, and we have come to believe and to know that thou art the Christ, the Son of God’ (John 6:68-70).

MANY PEOPLE LEFT JESUS BECAUSE OF THIS DOCTRINE OF HIS

The majority of the Jews present on this occasion took the words of Christ in a grossly materialistic sense. Jesus tried to enlighten them, saying, ‘Does this scandalise you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; and the flesh profits nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe’ (John 6:62-65). In these words Jesus tried to show them that they were to eat of His flesh spiritually, not carnally. He would become, by His very real presence under the sign of bread, the spiritual food of their souls. In this sense His words are spirit and life. But still they refused to accept His words and many left Him forever.

THIS FAILURE DID NOT MEAN THE END OF JESUS’ MISSION

This incident, in the course of which Jesus promises to give His own flesh as the bread of life, is the last incident which the evangelists record of the first ministry of Jesus in Galilee. As the incident shows, this ministry ended in failure. Jesus had come preaching repentance and the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. He had claimed power to forgive sins. He had acted, in the Sermon on the Mount, as a Lawgiver in His own right. He had explained the essentially spiritual nature of His kingdom and its indispensable basis, charity, love of God and love of men. He had claimed to be the Messias, the Anointed One of God. He claimed to have seen the Father face to face. His Apostles had accepted Him as the Son of God. He had demonstrated His claims by the mastery over nature which He displayed. While these manifestations of His power had gained Him the allegiance of the Apostles and a few disciples, it had not gained Him the allegiance of the multitudes. They sought Him out so that they might benefit by His power; they would have accepted Him as a political ruler, a military saviour. But they would not acknowledge Him as their spiritual leader, the saviour of their souls. After His refusal to lead them as their king and after His insistence that He Himself was the bread of eternal life for their souls and bodies, they deserted Him for ever.

JESUS HAD ALREADY FORETOLD HIS REJECTION

But this failure did not mean the end of Jesus’ mission. He Himself had already foretold His ultimate rejection by His own people. But in God’s plan the mission of Jesus was not yet fulfilled. Jesus would go on, preaching the kingdom to His own people and preparing His Apostles for the establishment of the kingdom throughout the world.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959
(Headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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O LORD, THE HOUR OF YOUR FAVOUR DRAWS NEAR

PRAYER FOR PARDON

O Lord,
the hour of Your favour draws near,
the day of Your mercy and our salvation –
when death was destroyed and eternal life
began.
We acknowledge our sins,
and our offences are always before us.
Blot out all our wrongdoings
and give us a new and steadfast spirit.
Restore us to Your friendship
and number us among the living
who share the joy of Your Son’s risen life.
Amen.

 

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“WHEN I COME OUT OF CONFESSION I FEEL LIKE I’VE ACTUALLY HAD A THOROUGH SPRING CLEAN”

“Confession is relaxing and reassuring – give it a try

For me it’s a restoration of my relationship with God. When I come out of Confession I feel like I’ve actually had a thorough spring clean. I’ve been looking at the chambers of my heart and have been thinking, is there anything that needs to be cleaned out? That’s how I feel when I come from Confession.

TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING

Right through the day after Confession, usually I keep checking myself in trying to do the right thing. I ask myself if Jesus is still happy to be in the chamber of my heart and is it still clean? I become very conscious of the way I talk and the way I deal with people. So, for me, it’s always a source of renewal that assures me that God is Love. I can almost hear the echo of the priest’s words in my ear – some of the things he’s asked me to do – and I’m reminded to continue doing them throughout the day.

‘A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH’

If I was to compare the way I felt before and after I go to Confession, it’s like coming back from the doctor’s with a clean bill of health. You feel good, you know that you’re fine, you know there is nothing to worry about, and you’re very careful to do the right thing so that you don’t have to go to the doctor’s again. But with Confession you’ll always have to keep going.

VERY RELAXING AND REASSURING

If anyone feels nervous about going to Confession I’d say that the feeling you get after is worth a try. It puts you on the path to just keep going because the thing about our faith is that you just keep on for as long as you live. There will be challenges, so just keep going and keep encouraging yourself and others to do it…

I CANNOT SAY: ‘I FORGIVE MY SINS’

[The following quote by Pope Francis]: ‘… Forgiveness of our sins is not something we can give ourselves. I cannot say: ‘I forgive my sins’. Forgiveness is asked for, is asked of another, and in Confession we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is not the fruit of our own efforts but rather a gift, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the wellspring of mercy and of grace that flows unceasingly from the open heart of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

TRULY BE AT PEACE

Secondly, it reminds us that we can truly be at peace only if we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in the Lord Jesus, with the Father and with the brethren. And we have all felt this in our hearts, when we have gone to Confession with a soul weighed down and with a little sadness; and when we receive Jesus’ forgiveness we feel at peace, with that peace of soul which is so beautiful, and which only Jesus can give, only him.’ (19th February 2014, Wednesday Audience).

[From Bishop Conry’s Pastoral Letter]: ‘You don’t have to remember any formula of words, or how many times you have done something wrong. The priest will help you. The Pope reminds us that the priest himself, bishops and even the Pope need to celebrate this sacrament. So if you haven’t ‘been to confession’ for some time and want to discover it again, this Lent might be a good time to do it… I hope that Lent is a fruitful season for you, that you experience change not only in the weather and the lengthening of days, but also in the light in your heart and the warmth of your inner self, and come to Easter with a real sense of re-discovered joy in the Lord.'”
– The above are excerpts of an article by Clare Ward published in the feature “Lenten Reflections” in “The Catholic Universe” issue Sunday 23rd March, 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.thecatholicuniverse.com (external link).

 

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18th MARCH, RESPONSORIAL PSALM (PSALM 49)

R. I will show God’s salvation to the upright.

1. “I find no fault with your sacrifices,
your offerings are always before me.
I do not ask more bullocks from your farms,
nor goats from among your herds. (R.)

2. “But how can you recite my commandments
and take my covenant on your lips,
you who despise my law
and throw my words to the winds. (R.)

3. “You do this, and should I keep silence?
Do you think I am like you?
A sacrifice of thanksgiving honours me
and I will show God’s salvation to the upright.” (R.)

ACCLAMATION

Repent, says the Lord, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.

 

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18th MARCH, BIBLE READING (ISAIAH 1:10, 16-20)

LEARN TO DO GOOD, SEARCH FOR JUSTICE.

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the command of our God,
you people of Gomorrah.

“Wash, make yourselves clean.
Take your wrong-doing out of my sight.

“Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good,
search for justice,
help the oppressed,
be just to the orphan,
plead for the widow.

“Come now, let us talk this over,
says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

“If you are willing to obey,
you shall eat the good things of the earth.
But if you persist in rebellion,
the sword shall eat you instead.”
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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14th MARCH, BIBLE READING (EZEKIEL 18:21-28)

AM I LIKELY TO TAKE PLEASURE IN THE DEATH OF A WICKED MAN AND NOT PREFER TO SEE HIM RENOUNCE HIS WICKEDNESS AND LIVE?

Thus says the Lord: “But if the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. All the sins he committed will be forgotten from then on; he shall live because of the integrity he has practised. What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live? But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practises every kind of filth, is he to live? All the integrity he has practised shall be forgotten from then on; but this is because he himself has broken faith and committed sin, and for this he shall die.

But you object, ‘What the Lord does in unjust.’ Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins, he shall certainly live; he shall not die.”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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