Please click/tap on the picture above or on this line to go to the audio podcast and/or YouTube video links.
3rd Sunday of Easter
ACTS 2.14, 22-28
1 PETER 1.17-21
During the weeks after Easter, the church puts us in touch with the first men and women who experienced the risen Jesus in an attempt to deepen our appreciation and understanding of this, the linchpin of our faith. In describing those early believers, Gunther Bornkamm once remarked, “The men and women who encounter the risen Christ in the Easter stories have come to an end of their wisdom. They are alarmed and disturbed by his death, mourners wandering about the grave of the Lord in their helpless love. . . like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, their last hopes are destroyed” (Jesus of Nazareth, Harper and Row, New York. 1960). Therefore it is erroneous to think that the resurrection narratives can be explained away as a human invention or as a product of wish-fulfillment on the part of Jesus’ disciples. After Jesus’ death, they were at a loss; it was only through their revelatory experiences of the risen Lord that the disciples began to understand the Jesus event as a work of God which forever changed the course of human history. As the early believers explained in today’s first two readings, Jesus was sent according to the set plan and purpose of God; through his dying and his resurrection God has worked miracles, signs and wonders in our midst (Acts). All our faith and hope as believers are centered on this mystery (1 Peter).
In his assessment of the resurrection appearances and of the gospel narratives which have preserved these experiences, Bas Van Jersel suggested that these texts were intended not only to inform would be believers concerning the fact of Jesus-risen but also as an interpretation of his resurrection for the life of the disciple (“The Resurrection of Jesus”, The New Concilium, Herder and herder, New York. 1965). In other words, accounts such as the one recorded in today’s gospel help us to understand that faith in the resurrection is not confined to a past event; nor is it relegated solely to a future moment when we also be raised by God from death. Rather, the resurrection appearances represent the church’s understanding concerning the permanent presence of the risen Lord with us now. How and in what manner do we experience him among us? What are the implications of his presence? How must it influence our faith? our life style?
Matthew, in his gospel, told his readers that they would find and experience Jesus in the hungry when they fed them; in the thirsty when they gave a drink of water; in the stranger to whom they gave a welcome; in the naked whom they clothed, in the ill whom they cared for and in the prisoner whom they visited. In another passage, the evangelist assured his contemporaries of an experience of Jesus’ presence whenever and wherever two or three would gather together in prayer (Matthew 25.35-36, 18.20). For his part, the fourth evangelist offered the assurance of Jesus’ abiding presence in the gift of the Spirit. Like Jesus, the Spirit would teach the disciples, remind them of his words and works, guide them to the truth and be with them always (John 14.16).
In today’s gospel, Luke reminds believers that the ultimate encounter with the permanent presence of the risen Jesus comes in the breaking open of the Word and in the Breaking of the Bread which is the Eucharist.
ACTS 2.14, 22-28
The book of Acts has sometimes been called the account of how the proclaimer became the proclaimed. In Acts, Luke builds a bridge between Jesus. who came in human flesh with a ministry of healing and reconciliation. . . who died on the cross for the salvation of all peoples. . . who rose in victory over death and sin to live forever. . . and the church. whose presence in the world continues to manifest the saving plan and purpose of God in human history. In this excerpted pericope. Peter and the Eleven are portrayed as empowered by the Spirit and intent upon proclaiming the good news of salvation just as Jesus had been endowed with the Spirit when he inaugurated his public ministry (see Luke 4.14-21). Among the Israelites, there was a widespread belief that God had “closed the heavens” and that the Holy Spirit had descended on no one, prophet or leader, since the last of the canonical prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Jerome Crowe, The Acts, Michael Glazier Inc., Wilmington. 1983). Aware of this belief, Luke made it clear in his account of Jesus (Luke) and of the church (Acts) that God rent the heavens and came down (Isaiah 63.19) and has poured out his Spirit on all of humankind (Joel 2.1).
Like the other sermons or discourses in Acts, Peter’s reflects a Lucan hand. A literary technique, popular and well documented in Hellenistic literature, speeches or sermons attributed to key character in a story were actually a careful composition of the author and served a vehicle of the ideas he wished to convey to his readers. Constituting approximately one quarter of the book of Acts, the twenty-four discourses vary in form and content; by incorporating these sermons into Acts, Luke has addressed the missionary apologetic and ecclesial concerns of his readers.
In this particular section of Peter’s Pentecost sermon, Luke defends the manner of Jesus’ ministry and death on the cross as a part of the “set purpose and plan of God” (vs. 23) for our salvation. As Joseph Fitzmyer has explained, Luke focuses on “the inbreaking of divine salvific activity into human history with the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth among mankind.” Everything that happened to Jesus, even his ignominious passion and death, as well as everything that will happen to the church because of its faith in Jesus “is a manifestation of a plan of God to bring about the salvation of human beings who recognize and accept the plan.” (The Gospel According to Luke, Anchor Bible, Vol. 28, Doubleday and Co., New York. 1981). But God’s saving plan did not end on Calvary; indeed God raised Jesus to life thereby breaking the grip of sin and death upon believers.
By citing Psalm 16, Luke drew on the support of the Hebrew scriptures, as the other evangelists and Paul, particularly when the intended audience of the discourse was Jewish (vs. 22). This psalm and others like it (e.g. Pss. 22, 110, 118) were used extensively by the early church in their efforts to present Jesus as the promised Savior and authentic fulfillment of Israel’s messianic hopes. Today its words continue to strike a chord in the hearts of those who understand Jesus as the center and culmination of the two testaments (Old Testament New Testament) of our faith.
1 PETER 1.17-21
Someone whose uniqueness distinguishes him/her from the mainstream of human society or whose ideas and values are unsynchronized with those of the general population is often said to “march to the beat of a different drummer.” In his letter to the Christians of Asia Minor the pseudonymous author of 1 Peter encouraged his readers to aspire to a similar description. Having been delivered by Christ from the futility of their former way of life, Christians should subsequently conduct themselves in a worthy manner. More often than not, this required that they cease or forego certain activities while dedicating themselves to a life-style which was consonant with the grace of their Christian vocation.
Earlier in his letter the author had characterized the life of a person before being redeemed as one dominated by ignorance and inordinate desire (vs. 14). As William Barclay (“Peter,” The Daily Study Bible, The St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh. 1975) explained, the pagan world was suffocated by ignorance, convinced by its philosophers that God was unknowable. “It is hard,” said Plato, “to investigate and find the framer and the father of the universe; and if one did find him, it would be impossible to express him in terms which all could understand.” Aristotle spoke of God as the “supreme cause, by all men dreamed of and by no men known.” Coupled with this burden of frustrated ignorance was an attitude of self-abandon with regard to the senses. Whereas “desperate poverty prevailed at the lower end of the social scale,” the higher echelons were notorious for their “sheer fleshliness.” By their own historians’ accounts, Romans and Greeks were shamelessly indulgent. At one banquet, Emperor Vitellius served two thousand fish, seven thousand birds and thousands of dollars worth of peacock’s brains and nightingales tongues. Martial tells of women who had reached their tenth husband; Jerome wrote of a woman married to her twenty-third husband, she being his twenty-first wife. But believers in Jesus, having been rescued from such godlessness were to live otherwise!
In terms reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt, the author of 1 Peter called his readers to be reverent sojourners, faithful to their constant companion on their journey through life, viz. Jesus. By his blood they had been redeemed and through him they had the joy of knowing God. No longer simply the supreme cause who could not be known or understood but only dreamed of, God, the loving Father had revealed himself and his saving plan in the person and mission of Jesus.
Like the recipients of 1 Peter, believers on the brink of the twenty-first century live in societies that are often characterized by interests and values contrary to those of the gospel. This ancient Christian author reminds his readers that their baptismal commitment calls them to center their faith and hope in God (vs. 21) and to “march to the beat of his drum.”
Journey to Emmaus
Like the two disciples making their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, contemporary believers of Jesus live after the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and in the interim between his two advents. Like Cleopas and his companion, we search for the daily experience of Jesus which sustains and strengthens our hope and which inspires our faithful discipleship. In their encounter with the risen Lord, we learn of the manner in which he remains present until his climactic appearance in glory.
In this superb narrative, Luke has provided his readers with a treasure of Christological and apologetic insights drawn from the different levels of gospel tradition. At the very basis of the story was the experience of the first witnesses of Jesus, vindicated by God and risen from death to glory. Surrounding that primitive core of gospel kerygma was the ongoing experience of the church in Syrian Antioch in the mid-80s C.E. In the almost two generations following Jesus’ death on the cross, the Antioch Christians had been encountering the risen Lord in the sacramental breaking of the bread. For his part, the evangelist had structured this narrative in a recognizable liturgical pattern. In both word (vs. 27) and sacrament (vs. 30) the risen Lord is made known and communicated to the believing community.
Notice the motif of delayed recognition which informed this and most of the other resurrection narratives. Initially, the disciples did not recognize Jesus because he was transformed by the glory of his resurrection. Nevertheless, Luke was careful (as were the other evangelists) to underscore the continuity between the Jesus whom the disciples had known during his ministry and the risen Lord whom they were now encountering. He taught them, ate with them and open their eyes to the knowledge of his presence.
As Jesus broke open the word for them (“he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him”, vs. 27) the disciples’ hearts began to burn within them (vs. 32). They implored him “Stay with us!” (vs. 29). Then, in a manner which recalled his last supper with them before his cross, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them; at that point, they came to know him. The searching, hoping fire in their hearts was transformed into recognition and faith.
Luke draws attention to the significance of this moment by declaring, “with that, their eyes were opened” (vs. 31). Opened eyes (a term mentioned eight times in the New Testament, six of which are in Luke-Acts) indicated a deepened understanding of revelation. In this instance, the disciples’ opened eyes meant that they had begun to comprehend the mystery of Jesus, dead, risen and ever present. Jesus’ disappearance at the point of recognition (“he vanished from their sight,” vs. 31) was not a disappointment but yet another signal that the risen Lord would remain forever with his disciples in the breaking of the bread and in the sharing of his word.
The experience of those early disciples is ours at every Eucharistic celebration. With fire in our hearts, the word reveals who he is; in the blessed and broken bread the paschal experience is renewed, We who hear the word and share the bread are nourished and sustained. Jesus lives; he stays with us. Hope and faith are not in vain.
Defense of the Resurrection and Easter Sunday
On the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about eleven kilometres from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
And Jesus said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’
Jesus asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that Jesus was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see Jesus.’
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, Jesus walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over,’ So Jesus went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus; and he vanished from their sight.
The two disciples said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scripture to us?
That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. These were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’
Then the two disciples told what had happened on the road, and how the Lord has been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Lk. 24.13-35)
IS THERE LIFE AFTER DEATH?
Madonna the great singer, attempted to answer the question of, “Why am I here?” by becoming a diva, confessing, “There were many years when I thought fame, fortune, and public approval would bring me happiness. But one day you wake up and realize they don’t… I still felt something was missing… I wanted to know the meaning of true and lasting happiness and how I could go about finding it.”(The Oprah Magazine, “Oprah talks to Madonna,” January, 2004, 120.)
Others have given up on finding meaning. Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the Seattle grunge band Nirvana, despaired of life at age 27 and committed suicide. Jazz-age cartoonist Ralph Barton also found life to be meaningless, leaving the following suicide note. “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, and from house to house, visited countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up 24 hours of the day.” Josh McDowell, The Resurrection Factor (San Bernardino, CA. Here’s Life Publ., 1981).
Pascal, the great French philosopher believed this inner void we all experience can only be filled by God. He states, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which only Jesus Christ can fill.” William R. Bright, Jesus and the Intellectual (San Bernardino, CA. Here’s Life Publ., 1968),If Pascal is right, then we would expect Jesus to not only answer the question of our identity and meaning in this life, but also to give us hope for life after we die.
Can there be meaning, without God? Not according to atheist Bertrand Russell, who wrote, “Unless you assume a god, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 2002),
Russell resigned himself to ultimately “rot” in the grave. In his book, Why I am not a Christian, Russell dismissed everything Jesus said about life’s meaning, including his promise of eternal life.
But if Jesus actually defeated death as eyewitnesses claim, then he alone would be able to tell us what life is all about, and answer, “Where am I going?” In order to understand how Jesus’ words, life, and death can establish our identities, give us meaning in life, and provide hope for the future, we need to understand what he said about God, about us, and about himself.
Summing up, I use the words of Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player as he was dying of AIDS, which he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983. From world over, he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed. “Why does GOD have to select you for such a bad disease”?
To this Arthur Ashe replied. The world over 5 crore children start playing tennis, 50 lakh learn to play tennis, 5 lakh learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals, When I was holding a cup I never asked GOD “Why me?”.
And today in pain I should not be asking GOD “Why me?”
Life after death promise keeps us Sweet, Trials keep us Strong, Sorrow keeps us Human, Failure keeps us Humble, Success keeps us Glowing, But only GOD KEEPS US GOING….. EVER STRONG…
THE FACT OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
The main sources which directly attest the fact of Christ’s Resurrection are the Four Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul. Easter morning is so rich in incident, and so crowded with interested persons, that its complete history presents a rather complicated tableau. It is not surprising, therefore, that the partial accounts contained in each of the Four Gospels appear at first sight hard to harmonize. But whatever exegetic view as to the visit to the sepulcher by the pious women and the appearance of the angels we may defend, we cannot deny the Evangelists’ agreement as to the fact that the risen Christ appeared to one or more persons. According to St. Matthew, He appeared to the holy women, and again on a mountain in Galilee; according to St. Mark, He was seen by Mary Magdalene, by the two disciples at Emmaus, and the Eleven before his Ascension into heaven; according to St. Luke, He walked with the disciples to Emmaus, appeared to Peter and to the assembled disciples in Jerusalem; according to St. John, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the ten Apostles on Easter Sunday, to the Eleven a week later, and to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15.3-8) enumerates another series of apparitions of Jesus after His Resurrection; he was seen by Cephas, by the Eleven, by more than 500 brethren, many of whom were still alive at the time of the Apostle’s writing, by James, by all the Apostles, and lastly by Paul himself.
The holy women carrying the spices previously prepared start out for the sepulcher before dawn, and reach it after sunrise; they are anxious about the heavy stone, but know nothing of the official guard of the sepulcher (Matthew 28.1-3; Mark 16.1-3; Luke 24.1; John 20.1).
Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome approach the sepulcher, and see the stone rolled back, whereupon Mary Magdalene immediately returns to inform the Apostles (Mark 16.4; Luke 24.2; John 20.1-2).
The other two holy women enter the sepulcher, find an angel seated in the vestibule, who shows them the empty sepulcher, announces the Resurrection, and commissions them to tell the disciples and Peter that they shall see Jesus in Galilee (Matthew 28.5-7; Mark 16.5-7).
A second group of holy women, consisting of Joanna and her companions, arrive at the sepulcher, where they have probably agreed to meet the first group, enter the empty interior, and are admonished by two angels that Jesus has risen according to His prediction (Luke 24.10).
Not long after, Peter and John, who were notified by Mary Magdalen, arrive at the sepulchre and find the linen cloth in such a position as to exclude the supposition that the body was stolen; for they lay simply flat on the ground, showing that the sacred body had vanished out of them without touching them. When John notices this he believes (John 20.3-10).
The two groups of pious women, who probably met on their return to the city, are favored with the sight of Christ arisen, who commissions them to tell His brethren that they will see him in Galilee (Matthew 28.8-10; Mark 16.8).
The harmony of the other apparitions of Christ after His Resurrection presents no special difficulties. Briefly, therefore, the fact of Christ’s Resurrection is attested by more than 500 eyewitnesses, whose experience, simplicity, and uprightness of life rendered them incapable of inventing such a fable, who lived at a time when any attempt to deceive could have been easily discovered, who had nothing in this life to gain, but everything to lose by their testimony, whose moral courage exhibited in their apostolic life can be explained only by their intimate conviction of the objective truth of their message. Again the fact of Christ’s Resurrection is attested by the eloquent silence of the Synagogue which had done everything to prevent deception, which could have easily discovered deception, if there had been any, which opposed only sleeping witnesses to the testimony of the Apostles, which did not punish the alleged carelessness of the official guard, and which could not answer the testimony of the Apostles except by threatening them “that they speak no more in this name to any man” (Acts 4.17). Finally the thousands and millions, both Jews and Gentiles, who believed the testimony of the Apostles in spite of all the disadvantages following from such a belief, in short the origin of the Church, requires for its explanation the reality of Christ’s Resurrection, for the rise of the Church without the Resurrection would have been a greater miracle than the Resurrection itself.
- OPPOSING THEORIES
(1)The Swoon Theory
There is the theory of those who assert that Christ did not really die upon the cross, that His supposed death was only a temporary swoon, and that His Resurrection was simply a return to consciousness. This was advocated by Paulus (“Exegetisches Handbuch”, 1842, II, p. 929) and in a modified form by Hase (“Gesch. Jesu”, n. 112), but it does not agree with the data furnished by the Gospels. The scourging and the crown of thorns, the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion, the three hours on the cross and the piercing of the Sufferer’s side cannot have brought on a mere swoon. His real death is attested by the centurion and the soldiers, by the friends of Jesus and by his most bitter enemies. His stay in a sealed sepulchre for thirty-six hours, in an atmosphere poisoned by the exhalations of a hundred pounds of spices, which would have of itself sufficed to cause death. Moreover, if Jesus had merely returned from a swoon, the feelings of Easter morning would have been those of sympathy rather than those of joy and triumph, the Apostles would have been roused to the duties of a sick chamber rather than to apostolic work, the life of the powerful wonderworker would have ended in ignoble solitude and inglorious obscurity, and His vaunted sinlessness would have changed into His silent approval of a lie as the foundation stone of His Church. No wonder that later critics of the Resurrection, like Strauss, have heaped contempt on the old theory of a swoon.
(2) The Imposition Theory
The disciples, it is said, stole the body of Jesus from the grave, and then proclaimed to men that their Lord had risen. This theory was anticipated by the Jews who “gave a great sum of money to the soldiers, saying. Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away when we were asleep” (Matthew 28.12 sq.). The same was urged by Celsus (Orig., “Contra Cels.”, II, 56) with some difference of detail. But to assume that the Apostles with a burden of this kind upon their consciences could have preached a kingdom of truth and righteousness as the one great effort of their lives, and that for the sake of that kingdom they could have suffered even unto death, is to assume one of those moral impossibilities which may pass for a moment in the heat of controversy, but must be dismissed without delay in the hour of good reflection.
(3) The Vision Theory
This theory as generally understood by its advocates does not allow visions caused by a Divine intervention, but only such as are the product of human agencies. For if a Divine intervention be admitted, we may as well believe, as far as principles are concerned, that God raised Jesus from the dead. But where in the present instance are the human agencies which might cause these visions? The idea of a resurrection from the grave was familiar to the disciples from their Jewish faith; they had also vague intimations in the prophecies of the Old Testament; finally, Jesus Himself had always associated His Resurrection with the predictions of his death. On the other hand, the disciples’ state of mind was one of great excitement; they treasured the memory of Christ with a fondness which made it almost impossible for them to believe that He was gone. In short, their whole mental condition was such as needed only the application of a spark to kindle the flame. The spark was applied by Mary Magdalen, and the flame at once spread with the rapidity and force of a conflagration. What she believed that she had seen, others immediately believed that they must see. Their expectations were fulfilled, and the conviction seized the members of the early Church that the Lord had really risen from the dead.
Such is the vision theory commonly defended by recent critics of the Resurrection. But however ingeniously it may be devised, it is quite impossible from an historical point of view.
It is incompatible with the state of mind of the Apostles; the theory presupposes faith and expectancy on the part of the Apostles, while in point of fact the disciples’ faith and expectancy followed their vision of the risen Christ.
It is inconsistent with the nature of Christ’s manifestations; they ought to have been connected with heavenly glory, or they should have continued the former intimate relations of Jesus with His disciples, while actually and consistently they presented quite a new phase that could not have been expected.
It does not agree with the conditions of the early Christian community; after the first excitement of Easter Sunday, the disciples as a body are noted for their cool deliberation rather than the exalted enthusiasm of a community of visionaries.
It is incompatible with the length of time during which the apparitions lasted; visions such as the critics suppose have never been known to last long, while some of Christ’s manifestations lasted a considerable period.
It is not consistent with the fact that the manifestations were made to numbers at the same instant.
Keim admits that enthusiasm, nervousness, and mental excitement on the part of the disciples do not supply a rational explanation of the facts as related in the Gospels. According to him, the visions were directly granted by God and the glorified Christ; they may even include a “corporeal appearance” for those who fear that without this they would lose all. But Keim’s theory satisfies neither the Church, since it abandons all the proofs of a bodily Resurrection of Jesus, nor the enemies of the Church, since it admits many of the Church’s dogmas; nor again is it consistent with itself, since it grants God’s special intervention in proof of the Church’s faith, though it starts with the denial of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, which is one of the principal objects of that faith.
(4) Modernist View
The Holy Office describes and condemns in the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh propositions of the Decree “Lamentabili”, the views advocated by a fourth class of opponents of the Resurrection. The former of these propositions reads. “The Resurrection of our Saviour is not properly a fact of the historical order, but a fact of the purely supernatural order neither proved nor provable, which Christian consciousness has little by little inferred from other facts.” This statement agrees with, and is further explained by the words of Loisy (“Autour d’un petit livre”, p. viii, 120-121, 169; “L’Evangile et l’Eglise”, pp. 74-78; 120-121; 171). According to Loisy, firstly, the entrance into life immortal of one risen from the dead is not subject to observation; it is a supernatural, hyper-historical fact, not capable of historical proof. The proofs alleged for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ are inadequate; the empty sepulchre is only an indirect argument, while the apparitions of the risen Christ are open to suspicion on a priori grounds, being sensible impressions of a supernatural reality; and they are doubtful evidence from a critical point of view, on account of the discrepancies in the various Scriptural narratives and the mixed character of the detail connected with the apparitions. Secondly, if one prescinds from the faith of the Apostles, the testimony of the New Testament does not furnish a certain argument for the fact of the Resurrection. This faith of the Apostles is concerned not so much with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as with His immortal life; being based on the apparitions, which are unsatisfactory evidence from an historical point of view, its force is appreciated only by faith itself; being a development of the idea of an immortal Messiah, it is an evolution of Christian consciousness, though it is at the same time a corrective of the scandal of the Cross. The Holy Office rejects this view of the Resurrection when it condemns the thirty-seventh proposition in the Decree “Lamentabili”. “The faith in the Resurrection of Christ pointed at the beginning no so much to the fact of the Resurrection, as to the immortal life of Christ with God.”
Besides the authoritative rejection of the foregoing view, we may submit the following three considerations which render it untenable. First, the contention that the Resurrection of Christ cannot be proved historically is not in accord with science. Science does not know enough about the limitations and the properties of a body raised from the dead to immortal life to warrant the assertion that such a body cannot be perceived by the senses; again in the case of Christ, the empty sepulcher with all its concrete circumstances cannot be explained except by a miraculous Divine intervention as supernatural in its character as the Resurrection of Jesus. Secondly, history does not allow us to regard the belief in the Resurrection as the result of a gradual evolution in Christian consciousness. The apparitions were not a mere projection of the disciples’ Messianic hope and expectation; their Messianic hope and expectations had to be revived by the apparitions. Again, the Apostles did not begin with preaching the immortal life of Christ with God, but they preached Christ’s Resurrection from the very beginning, they insisted on it as a fundamental fact and they described even some of the details connected with this fact. Acts, ii, 24, 31; iii, 15,26; iv, 10; v, 30; x, 39-40; xiii, 30, 37; xvii, 31-2; Rom., i,4; iv, 25; vi, 4,9; viii, 11, 34; x. etc. Thirdly, the denial of the historical certainty of Christ’s Resurrection involves several historical blunders. it questions the objective reality of the apparitions without any historical grounds for such a doubt; it denies the fact of the empty sepulchre in spite of solid historical evidence to the contrary; it questions even the fact of Christ’s burial in Joseph’s sepulchre, though this fact is based on the clear and simply unimpeachable testimony of history.
Acts 10.34a, 36-43; Col 3.1-4 (Or 1 Cor 5.6b-8);
Jn 20.1-18, In the afternoon Lk 24.13-35
Wednesday of the First Week in Lent
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation.“The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!“The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!”
What is the “sign of Jonah” Jesus speaks of in this Gospel? It might offer an important lesson as we begin this Lenten season.
Jonah was called by God to preach to the people of Nineveh. He hated this idea because Nineveh was one of Israel’s greatest enemies—he wanted nothing to do with preaching to them! Jonah ran away in the opposite direction of Nineveh and headed by boat to Tarshish. God sent a great storm upon the ship and the men decided Jonah was to blame so they threw him overboard. As soon as they tossed Jonah in the water, the storm stopped.
God sent a whale to swallow Jonah and save him from drowning. While in the belly of the whale, Jonah prayed to God for help, repented, and praised God. For three days and three nights Jonah sat in the belly of the fish. Then, God had the whale throw up Jonah onto the dry land. God asked Jonah a second time to go to Nineveh—and he did.
Jonah preached to people in Nineveh and warned them to repent before their city was destroyed. The people believed Jonah and the power of his message for generations and turned from their wickedness.
As a child, this was an entertaining story but now as an adult, it has new meaning for me. This is a story of repentance: Jonah turns back towards God, and his preaching helps others do the same.
The “sign of Jonah” invites us to ask ourselves how might God be nudging us to change our lives. Are we running away from anything God might be asking of us? The three days in the dark and silent belly of a fish were instrumental to Jonah’s conversion—it gave him time to think and pray. Is there stillness in our lives for God to speak to us?
The “sign of Jonah” also raises the importance of reaching out to people who are not like us. Do I share hostility with anyone? Am I reluctant to reach out to certain people, perhaps because of their scorn or cynicism? These may be the very people God is calling us to save through the Jesus’ good news.
Let us take to heart the “sign of Jonah” and follow it into a thoughtful and meaningful Lent.
THE SECOND COMING
We all know that when we are sick and then regain our health, we feel a sort of relief which we would not have experienced if we had been always healthy. The second coming of Christ informs us that the first coming was a basic coming for establishing the kingdom, the second is to take away the kingdom. The second can more powerful than the first one, as it signals reunification of man with God.
The second coming of Christ our Bridegroom takes place daily in good persons; indeed, it takes place frequently and repeatedly, with new gifts and graces, in all those who prepare themselves for it to the best of their ability. We do not intend to speak here of a person’s initial conversion or of the graces, which were first bestowed when he turned from sin to virtue. Rather, we wish to speak of a day-to-day increase in new gifts and new virtues and of a present, daily coming of Christ our Bridegroom into our soul… This is [a] coming of Christ our Bridegroom which takes place daily with an increase in graces and new gifts, for when a person receives any of the sacraments with a humble heart and without placing any obstacle in the way of the sacrament’s effects, then he receives new gifts and an increase of grace because of his humility and because of the mysterious working of Christ in the sacraments… It is, then, another coming of Christ our Bridegroom which is present to us every day. We should reflect on it with a heart full of desire so that it might take place in ourselves, for this coming is necessary if we are to remain steadfast or go forward into eternal life.
Gospel Reflection (29-11-2009)
Today the Son of man comes through all the situations of life. Well, there are already the signs the Jesus predicted. Because of Global warming we do not know what is going to happen in the coming year. In the past three years we have witnessed a lot of strange situations which really take us to understand the predictions of Jesus. “Then they will see the Son of Man coming” We will wait and see. The melting of the ice cape of our planet is a great loss and will result in flood and earthquakes. Forest fires devouring green our planet is another of disasters.
“The bridegroom is coming” (Mt 25,6). Christ our Bridegroom speaks this word in Latin: venit . This word could be in either the present or the perfect tense and so contains within itself two different times: the time which is past and that which is present. In addition, Christ means the time which is still to come. For this reason we shall have· to consider three comings of our Bridegroom Jesus Christ. In the first of these comings he became a human being out of love for us. The second coming takes place daily in many and various ways in every loving heart, for he comes with new gifts and new graces according to the measure in which each person is able to receive them. The third coming is that on the Day of Judgment or at the hour of death… The reason God created angels and human beings was his fathomless goodness and nobility. He wished the blessedness and richness that he is in himself to be revealed to rational creatures so that they might savor him in this temporal world and enjoy him beyond the temporal order in eternity. The reason God became a human being was his incomprehensible love and the need of all persons, for they had been corrupted through original sin and could do nothing of themselves to change their condition. But there were four reasons why Christ, according to both his divinity and his humanity, performed all his works on earth: first, his divine love, which is immeasurable; secondly, that created love which is called charity and which he had in his soul through his union with the eternal Word and through the perfect gifts which he received from his Father; thirdly, the great need of human nature; and fourthly, the honor of his Father. These are the reason for the coming of Christ our Bridegroom and for all that he did.
Be vigilant at all times and pray
While I was waiting for a train, I kept watching people’s movement. At one point I saw a baby girl running towards the edge of the platform. I jumped and grabbed her. It was a miraculous escape for the child, at one point a speeding train was approaching and even if the child had fallen down the platform, she would have been mortally injured. Jesus says, watch and pray.One should know that a person should do the will of God is what constitutes prayer. That is how prayer seems to me to excel. Above all, be eager for prayer and do not weary in it, as it is written that our Lord said: Pray and do not weary. You should be eager in wakefulness and remove far from yourself drowsiness and sleep; you should be watchful both by day and by night and not be disheartened. Now I shall show you the different occasions for prayer. There is petition, thanksgiving, and praise. In petition one asks for mercy for one’s sins, in thanksgiving you give thanks to your Father who is in heaven, while in praise you praise him for his works. At a time when you are in trouble, offer up petition, and when you are well supplied with good things, you should give thanks to the Giver, and when your mind rejoices, offer up praise. Make all these prayers of yours with discernment to God. See how David was always saying: I have risen to give thanks to you for your judgments, O Just One. (Ps 119,62). And in another psalm he said: Praise the Lord in heaven, praise him in the heights (Ps 149,1). Again he says: I will bless the Lord at all times, and at all times his praises are in my mouth (Ps 34,2). Do not pray using only one kind of prayer, but all separately according to circumstance. I am convinced, that everything people ask for with diligence, God will grant them. But he takes no pleasure in the person who offers up prayer in mockery. As it is written: This is required of the person who prays, offering up prayer: that he turn over and inspect his offering well, lest some blemish be found on it; only then should he offer it (cf Mt 5,23-24; Mk 11,25), so that your offering does not remain on earth. What is this offering if not prayer?… Of all offerings pure prayer is the best.
“By your perseverance you will secure your lives”
He who is mocked by his neighbour, as I am, will call upon God and he will answer him (Jb 12,4 Vg)… But sometimes the soul perseveres in good works with a constant heart, and yet is pushed hard by the scoffing of men; it does admirable deeds, and gets only abuse; and he who might have been encouraged to come out of himself by commendation, is repulsed by insults and returns back again into himself. He establishes himself the more firmly in God, as he finds no place else where he may rest in peace: for all his hope is fixed in his creator. Amidst ridicule and abuse, he implores only the interior witness. His soul in distress becomes God’s neighbor, in proportion as he is a stranger to the favor of man’s esteem. So he pours himself out in prayer and, hard-pressed from without, is refined with a more perfect purity to enter more deeply into all that is interior. Therefore, it is well said at this time, He who is mocked by his neighbor as I am, will call upon God and he will answer him… And while the soul of the good strengthens itself, with compunction, in prayer, it is united within itself in the hearing of the most High, in the very act that severs it from the approval of men outside itself… For the upright man’s simplicity is laughed to scorn (Jb 12,4) It is the wisdom of this world to conceal one’s feelings with pretence, to veil the sense with words; to show things that are false as true, and to make out as fallacious what is true. But on the other hand it is the wisdom of the righteous, to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words; to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood; to set forth good deeds freely, to bear evil more gladly than to do it; to seek no revenge of a wrong, to count ill repute as a gain for the truth’s sake. But this simplicity of the righteous is laughed to scorn, because the goodness of purity is taken for folly by the wise men of this world. For doubtless everything that is done from innocence is counted foolish by them, and whatever truth sanctions in practice sounds weak to carnal wisdom.
Along the centuries, science has inflicted two serious corrective on humankind. The first was when it showed that the earth far from being the centre of the universe, constituted only an insignificant part of the cosmic system, whose magnitude we can hardly encompass. The first discovery is linked for us to the name of Copernicus, although Alexandrian science had already announced something similar much before. The second corrective was inflicted on humankind by biological research, which ahs minimized to the utmost man’s pretension to occupy a privileged position in the order of creation, as it established his zoological ancestry and demonstrated his unavoidable animal nature. The last change of values has been carried out in our days by the work of Charles Darwin, Wallace and their predecessors, in spite of the fierce opposition of contemporary opinion. (Introduction to Psychoanalysis, p. 300)
When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand » (Lk 21,28)
You have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the castle of the insolent is a city no more, nor ever to be rebuilt. Therefore a strong people will honor you (Is 25,2-3). It pertains to Almighty God’s faithful plan (v.1) and blameless counsels that the fortified cities should be overthrown and reduced to a heap of rubble», that they should be shaken to their foundations and without hope of being able to rise again. It shall never be rebuilt, the text says. In our opinion these overturned cities are not those we can perceive by our senses nor are they the people living in them. But, it seems to us, it is rather a question of each evil, hostile power and, above all, of Satan, here called a city and a strong city… When Emmanuel appeared and shone upon the world, the impious troop of enemy powers was brought to ruin and Satan was overthrown to his foundations. He has fallen and is weakened for evermore and can no longer expect to stand again nor raise up his head. Hence the poor and the city of the needy in distress will bless you (LXX). Israel has been summoned to knowledge of God through the instructions of the Law; it has been filled by God with all good things. Yes, it has been saved and has acquired the land of promise as an inheritance. But the great multitude of other nations under heaven were deprived of these spiritual goods… When Christ appeared in person and, driving out the devil’s tyranny, led them to his God and Father, then they were enriched by the light of truth, by participation in the divine glory and by the nobility of an evangelical life. That is why they broke forth into hymns of thanksgiving to God our Father: Yes, Lord, you have fulfilled your wonderful plans of old (v.1) by recapitulating all things in Christ. You have shone on those who sat in darkness (Lk 1,79) by overturning the powers ruling the world (Eph 6,12) as one overturns the fortified cities. Therefore a poor people will bless you, all the cities will honor you.
Luke 21 : 1 – 4
When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”
“Those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she… has offered her whole livelihood.”Don’t let us despise the poor and little ones…; not only are they our brothers in God but they are the ones who most perfectly imitate Jesus in his outward life. They perfectly symbolize Jesus as workman at Nazareth. These are the firstborn among God’s elect and the first to be summoned to the Savior’s crib. They were Jesus’ constant companions from birth to death; both Mary and Joseph and the apostles belonged to them… Far from despising them, let us honor them, honoring in them the images of Jesus and his holy parents. Instead of spurning them, let us admire them… Let us imitate them and, seeing that theirs is the better state, the one chosen by Jesus for himself and those who belong to him, the one he called first around his crib, the one he showed forth in deed and word…, let us embrace it… Let us become poor workmen like him, like Mary, Joseph, the apostles, the shepherds and, if we should ever be called to the apostolate, let us remain in that life as poor as he himself remained, as poor as a saint Paul did, his «faithful imitator» (cf. 1Cor 11,1). Let us never stop being poor in everything, brothers to the poor, friends of the poor; let us be the poorest of the poor as Jesus was and, like him, let us love the poor and keep them around us.
BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT
INTRODUCTION: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). This idea, along with so many others in the Bible, seems so foreign to the modern mind. How can poverty in any form be good?
This is especially true when we understand that the word here for blessed literally means, “happy, supremely blessed.” How can we be poor and still happy?
- SOME MISCONCEPTIONS CONCERNING THIS PASSAGE
- Some equate physical poverty with being pleasing to the Lord.
- There is no special righteousness in being poor, neither is there a special sinfulness in the possessing of riches.
- While it is often easier for the poor (because of their lack of being fettered by the cares of the world that comes from wealth) to be saved than the rich, it is certain that there will be rich who dwell in Heaven and poor who will dwell in the depths of Hell.
- Some believe that a false modesty and self-abasement are the fulfillment of being poor in spirit.
- Jesus never recommended monasticism (i.e., the complete abasement of the human body and retreat from society). In fact Jesus contrasted the practices of Him and His disciples with that of John.
- Matthew 11:18,19 – “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.”
- 2. The Bible tells us that we are to be part of society, although we are to be different from the sinfulness of the world.
- John 17:14, 15 – “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”
- 1 Corinthians 5:9,10 – “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.”
- We also can become conceited in our humility that we become “humble and proud of it.”
- The Lord is also not talking about those who would mentally flagellate themselves and have a “poor me” attitude. Christianity is a positive religion that declares, “with God for us we will be victorious.
- Romans 8:31 – “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”
- Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
- WHAT THEN DOES IT MEAN TO BE “POOR IN SPIRIT?”
- It is a person that has spiritual poverty.
- This the person who realizes that he or she cannot save themselves, that they are without an ability to glorify themselves.
- The spiritually poor have a keen sense of their own sinfulness and need for God’s grace.
- “This poverty of spirit is a prerequisite to acquiring the other beatitudes. Spiritual beggars who have abandoned pride and self-sufficiency and who rely totally on God for support are in a position to inculcate the mournful, meek, hungry, merciful, pure, and peaceful disposition suggested by the other beatitudes” (1988 Spiritual Sword Lectures).
- Some examples of this kind of personality in the Word of God.
- Luke 18:13 – “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”
- The attitude of Gideon.
- Judges 6:15 – “And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
- The attitude of Isaiah.
- Isaiah 6:5 – “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
- The Lord displayed this attitude while here on the earth.
- John 5:30 -“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”
- John 14:10 – “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”
- It was the thinking of the apostle Paul.
- Philippians 3:8 – “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,”
- It was the way of thinking of the apostle Peter.
- Luke 5:8 – “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
- We can gain an even more thorough understanding of what the Lord is telling us by look at some negative examples.
- Look at the same example that we first cited, the publican. He is contrasted with a Pharisee. Read what the pharisee said and Jesus’ commentary of both of them.
- Luke 18:11-12, 14 – “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess . . . I tell you, this man (the publican) went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
- Luke 12:16-20 (the rich farmer)
- Daniel 4:30-31 “The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.”
III. WHAT IS THE GREAT REWARD FOR THE POOR IN SPIRIT? “THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.”
- They possess the qualities that are prerequisites for membership in Christ’s kingdom, the church.
- Matthew 18:3-4 “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
- It takes an attitude of complete spiritual poverty to accept God’s plan of salvation.
- Ephesians 2:7-9
- These will inherit that eternal kingdom as well.
- James 4:6 “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”
- Those who are prideful and self-sufficient could never hope to enjoy the blessings of Heaven. They would never accept that they were sinners in need of a savior, never accept the need to obey God in God’s way, and never accept the fact that without God they could do nothing. Thus, they will never enjoy a Heaven filled with sinners cleansed by the blood of Jesus (Revelation 1:5).
“What makes humility so desirable is the marvelous thing it does to us; it creates in us a capacity for the closest possible intimacy with God”. It is only through the humility of spiritual poverty that we can draw close to God and truly enjoy life as He wants us to.
“But now it is hidden from your eyes”
Obviously no holy city constitutes the goal of our pilgrimage in time. This goal is hidden beyond this world, in the heart of God’s mystery which is still invisible to us. For it is in faith that we journey, not in clear vision, and what we shall be has not yet been manifested. The New Jerusalem of which we are already citizens and sons and daughters, comes down from above, from God. Of this only lasting city we have not yet contemplated the splendor, except as in a mirror and in a confused way, by holding fast to the prophetic word. But already we are its citizens, or we are invited to become so; every spiritual pilgrimage receives its interior meaning from this ultimate destination.And so it was with the Jerusalem praised by the psalmists. Jesus Himself and Mary His Mother sang on earth as they went up to Jerusalem the canticles of Zion: “perfection of beauty,” “joy to the whole world.” But henceforth it is from Christ that the Jerusalem above receives its attraction, and it is towards Him that we are making our inner journey.
(Biblical References: 1Jn 3,2; Gal 4,26; Rv 21,2; 1Cor 13,12; Ps 50,2; Ps 48,3)
Anything that makes you weak physically, intellectually, and spiritually, reject as poison.
I feel that the word “weak” is all encompassing and embraces anything that creates in you a stressful situation like all negative emotions and feelings including anger, irritation, infuriation, frustration, despondency, depression, demoralization, unhappiness – anything that disturbs your inner tranquility and equanimity, drains you emotionally and intellectually, besides literal physical weakness. Oh yes, Stress is weakness, Stress is Poison!
Now sit down in a quiet tranquil place, close your eyes, introspect, and try to think of all the things that make you feel negative – all your stress-creators and stressful situations.
These stress-creators and stress facilitators can be a variety of things:
Toxic or incompatible persons, who irritate, annoy and hassle you,
Foods and beverages which don’t suit you and are physically detrimental,
Stressful activities, which initially may appear pleasurable, but actually drain you out, and many avoidable Stress Creating Situations,
Technology and gadgets, like your cell-phone, which disturb your peace of mind,
Strained relationships, which are a source of stress,and many more such things – just sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and think of all the things and entities that create or foster stree in you.
Make an exhaustive list of all the things that make you “weak” and try to reject them as “poison”.
At first you may be a bit skeptical about this approach, but when you start implementing, you’ll be surprised how much it is in your own control to prevent stress.While you reject the things that make you weak, you must also reinforce the things that make you feel “strong” and positive.
So simultaneously, reflect and contemplate, and make a list of things which give you strength and joy, make you happy and productive – all the things and people that create positive feelings in you – and try to devote as much time and energy to these positive things that give you strength and make you feel good.
When you spend most of your time doing “happiness-creating” activities and try to be in the company of persons who make you feel happy, things that make you feel “strong”, you will be infused with positive feelings of joy and there will be no place for stress to enter your life, at least in those joyful moments.
This technique of stress prevention works for me, and I’m sure it’ll work for you too.
You will realise that this way of conquering stress and banishing it from your life is so effective probably because it is so breathtaking in its simplicity.
Zacchaeus prayed thus in his heart: How blessed is he who is worthy to receive this Just man into his house.
Our Savior said to him: Zacchaeus, come down quickly! And he, seeing that the Lord knew his thoughts, said:
Since he knows about these he must also know all I have done. That is why he declared: All I have extorted from anyone, I shall repay it four times over. Quick, come down from that fig tree, for I am going to stay with you. Thanks to this second fig tree, that of the chief of publicans, the first fig tree, that of Adam, falls into oblivion and the name of Adam is likewise forgotten thanks to righteous Zacchaeus…
Today, life has come to this house… Through his prompt obedience, he who was a mere thief yesterday has today become a doer of good deeds; he who yesterday was a tax gatherer today becomes a disciple. Zacchaeus has left behind the old law and climbed an immobile fig tree, symbol of his spirit’s deafness. But this climb is the symbol of his salvation. He has forsaken baseness and climbed up to see divinity in the heights. Our Lord hastened to make him abandon that withered fig tree, his former manner of life, so that he would not remain deaf. While the flame of love for our Lord burned within him it consumed the old man in him to create in him a new man.
THE NARROW WAY LEADS TO LIFE
Life often takes unexpected turns. It’s a universal truth that grief and pain spare no one. And when they arrive, the resultant emotional trauma can last for months, even years. Betrayal, infidelity, deception, from those we trust and care about – can never be planned for, or anticipated.
Yet, these very traumatic experiences are also life’s turning points. The experiences or the happening itself is not as important as your perceptions of it. The way you cope with what has happened is what makes the directions.
When such events occur, your minds and hearts become inundated with feelings of loss, helplessness and a sense of being defeated. If left unresolved, those traumatic experiences many suppress the body’s inbuilt immune system, and leave you more vulnerable to illness and disease.
However, no incident or situation, no matter how bad it may look in its first moments, is final or fatal. No personal trauma or emotional setback is insurmountable. To overcome such a sudden and intense personal hurdle requires patience, understanding and , above all, an awareness that looks beyond the immediate to the larger picture.
Spiritually, all our problems and setback are merely lessons for us from life, acted out through people, events and places, and leading to our self-evolution. There are no full stops in life, only commas, And the sooner we learn our lessons, the faster our life moves forward in a more harmonious manner.
Here are certain steps that can be followed to make the path through the mental and emotional turbulence of a personal crisis smoother. First, accept the pain, and the mistakes and errors on your part. To prepare yourself mentally to meet the demands of stressful circumstances, you need to accept that your life has temporarily been turned upside down by the unforeseen traumatic event, and believe that opportunities for self-growth and lessons exist within the new circumstances.
Also believe that you can learn your lessons and grow to be a better, happier and more aware individual. Secondly, accept that the healing of grief and pain is a process that takes time. Each person experiences pain differently and reacts to different stimuli in different ways. But certain emotions felt as a result of a sudden traumatic event are common.
Denial, anger, fear and symptoms of depression such as sleep problems, loss of appetite, and difficulty in accomplishing daily tasks are stages that we all pass through. It’s important to recognize that the mourning or recovering process takes time. Sometimes, it takes many months or more to pass through.
Thirdly, seek periods of solace and draw help from family and loved ones. Identify what feels best to you and for finding solace during times of grief. Spending time close to nature, or browsing through old letters and photos are all valid options.
The key is to do whatever allows you to express your grief with your loved ones. Researchers have repeatedly demonstrated a vital link between the strength of our social support systems and our emotional and physical resilience under severe personal stress.
Finally, work towards resolution of conflicts and issues. Usually, the reasons for our grief and pain are of our own making even though we cannot clearly see this while experiencing the trauma. The reasons for the crisis are possibly the results of our choices and decisions.
Remember, denial of the reasons cannot lead to healing or resolution. A clear understanding of the reasons, followed by acceptance, and a firm commitment for positive change is the answer. Prayer and meditation are very helpful tools to the tide over a personal crisis, they bring stability and allow inner cleansing.
A broken heart, if that’s what you face, being emotional trauma, requires, much more care than a broken bone or any other physical ailment. Here are some practical tips to heal a broken heart. First the do’s. Do stay calm and treat yourself gently. Do recognize and accept your injury. Do stay with the pain, do not deny it. Do take time to heal. Do accept comfort from family and loved ones. Do take care in making important decisions, and attempt to resolve the conflict.
And now the don’ts. Don’t panic. Don’t deny the hurt, or the mistakes. Don’t dwell on the negatives, or stay isolated. Don’t make choices, or decisions that create more chaos and pain. Don’t fall into relationships on the rebound. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes, or to ask for help. Above all, don’t lose faith in God.
In Phoenix , Arizona , a 26-year-old mother stared down at her 6 year old son, who was dying of terminal leukemia.
Although her heart was filled with sadness, she also had a strong feeling of determination. Like any parent, she wanted her son to grow up and fulfill all his dreams. Now that was no longer possible.
The leukemia would see to that. But she still wanted her son’s dream to come true.
She took her son’s hand and asked, ‘Billy, did you ever think about what you wanted to be once you grew up ? Did you ever dream and wish what you would do with your life?’
Mommy, ‘I always wanted to be a fireman when I grew up.’
Mom smiled back and said, ‘Let’s see if we can make your wish come true..’
Later that day she went to her local fire Department in Phoenix , Arizona , where she met Fireman Bob, who had a heart as big as Phoenix .
She explained her son’s final wish and asked if it might be possible to give her 6 year-old son a ride around the block on a fire engine.
Fireman Bob said, ‘Look, we can do better than that. If you’ll have your son ready at seven o’clock Wednesday morning, we’ll make him an honorary Fireman for the whole day. He can come down to the fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls, the whole nine yards !
And if you’ll give us his sizes, we’ll get a real fire uniform for him, with a real fire hat – not a toy — one-with the emblem of the Phoenix Fire Department on it, a yellow slicker like we wear and rubber boots.’
‘They’re all manufactured right here in Phoenix , so we can get them fast.’
Three days later Fireman Bob picked up Billy, dressed him in his uniform and escorted him from his hospital bed to the waiting hook and ladder truck.
Billy got to sit on the back of the truck and help steer it back to the fire station. He was in heaven.
There were three fire calls in Phoenix that day and Billy got to go out on all three calls.
He rode in the different fire engines, the Paramedic’s’ van, and even the fire chief’s car.
He was also videotaped for the local news program.
Having his dream come true, with all the love and attention that was lavished upon him, so deeply touched Billy, that he lived three months longer than any doctor thought possible.
One night all of his vital signs began to drop dramatically and the head nurse, who believed in the hospice concept – that no one should die alone, began to call the family members to the hospital.
Then she remembered the day Billy had spent as a Fireman, so she called the Fire Chief and asked if it would be possible to send a fireman in uniform to the hospital to be with Billy as he made his transition.
The chief replied, ‘We can do better than that. We’ll be there in five minutes. Will you please do me a favor ?
When you hear the sirens screaming and see the lights flashing, will you announce over the PA system that there is not a fire ?’ ‘It’s the department coming to see one of its finest members one more time. And will you open the window to his room ?’
About five minutes later a hook and ladder truck arrived at the hospital and extended its ladder up to Billy’s third floor open window ——
16 fire-fighters climbed up the ladder into Billy’s room !!
With his mother’s permission, they hugged him and held him and told him how much they LOVED him.
With his dying breath, Billy looked up at the fire chief and said, ‘Chief, am I really a fireman now ?’
‘Billy, you are, and The Head Chief, Jesus, is holding your hand,’ the chief said.
With those words, Billy smiled and said, ‘I know, He’s been holding my hand all day, and the angels have been singing.’
He closed his eyes one last time.
My instructions were to send this to at least four people that I wanted God to bless and I picked you.
Please pass this to at least four people you want to be blessed. This story is powerful and there is nothing attached.
PLEASE do not break this pattern; Uplifting stories are one of the best gifts we receive. There is no cost, but a lot of rewards, so let’s
continue to uplift one another~
The Spirituality of God’s Kingdom
While it is widely recognized that the most persistent subject in the teaching and preaching of Jesus Christ was the Kingdom of God, there has been some disagreement as to what that phrase means. The kingdom of God is over all, while the Kingdom of Heaven referred to the personal presence of the king from heaven (Jesus Christ) on earth. There are verses in the Old Testament that state that God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and is over all (such as I Chronicles 29:11,12; Psalm 22:28; 103:19; 145:13; Daniel 4:3). But there are specific descriptions, especially in the Prophets and in the Gospels, of the Messiah reigning on earth. According to the theory I was taught, the Kingdom of Heaven started when Jesus began his public ministry, and will again be reinstated when he returns to reign, as described in the Book of Revelation. In the meantime, it is “held in abeyance” during this Church age, when a new aspect of God’s plan has been revealed.
I began to realize that my understanding of the Kingdom of God was sorely lacking when it was pointed out to me that the two phrases “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” were synonymous. Consider the following verses:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
The same statement, in two different gospels, is worded two different ways. Here are two more:
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
17 Verily I say unto you, whoever shall not receives the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
Again, two different ways are used to say the same thing. The Gospel of Matthew is the only one that uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” The other Gospel writers always use “kingdom of God.” One is literal, the other figurative. Both refer to the same thing. Consider the preaching of John the Baptist.
1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it.
What John the Baptist preached is called “the kingdom of God” in Luke, and “the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew. Did John preach two different gospels? Jesus’ call to repentance also uses different phrases in Matthew and Mark.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Did Jesus preach two different gospels? When he sent out the twelve, what were they told to preach?
5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
1 Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
Again, did they preach two different gospels? It is called by different names, but only one gospel is meant.
11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
28 For I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
There are a number of instances in which the same thing is said, using one phrase in Matthew and another in the other gospels. Compare Matthew 13:11 with Mark 4:11 and Luke 8:10. Compare Matthew 13:31 with Mark 4:30,31 and Luke 13:18,19. Also Matthew 13:33 with Luke 13:20,21; and Matthew 19:14 with Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16. There is even a passage in Matthew in which both “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are used.
23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
But the parallel records in Mark and Luke use only “kingdom of God” in both sentences.
24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hard shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
As you can see, the phrases “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” are synonymous. It is so obvious that I am amazed and somewhat ashamed that I never saw it in my many years of supposed Biblical research!
So, you may ask, what did Jesus actually say–“kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God”? Some people might even consider it a contradiction. But the gospels do not record a verbatim word for word quotation of the words of Jesus Christ, or of anyone else for that matter. God is interested in conveying the meaning that He wants people to understand. Biblical research which focuses on minutely detailed word studies often miss the point of what’s being communicated.
There is no indication in any of the words of Jesus that there is a distinction between “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven”. The two terms are synonymous. “Kingdom of God” is the literal term for what Jesus preached, while “kingdom of heaven” is a figurative way of saying the same thing. It is figurative because “heaven” is put for “God” who dwells there.
26 And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shall have known that the heavens do rule.
The heavens do not literally rule, but refer figuratively to God who dwells there. In the parable commonly known as “the prodigal son” recorded in Luke 15, the son says that he sinned against heaven.
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
He did not literally sin against heaven, but against God. This is a common figure of speech in Hebrew culture. Things from God are frequently said to be “from heaven” or “heavenly”. The kingdom of God is called a “heavenly kingdom” in II Timothy 4:18, because it is from God in heaven. “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of heaven” are two different ways of saying the same thing.
KINGDOM IS NOT
As I began to learn about the Kingdom of God Gospel from various sources, it gradually became clear that several of the most foundational concepts I had been taught did not stand up to closer scrutiny from the Bible. It is not my intention to criticize any former teachers, but simply to demonstrate what I believe can be plainly seen from the Bible when it is read without preconceived notions.
The things that I say are not unheard of concepts, but are known by many biblical scholars and theologians. They may contradict what is commonly assumed by the average church goer, but they can be readily seen from a simple reading of the Bible. I missed some of them for years, however, because I accepted what I was taught, without examining the evidence.
Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven
The simplest example is one regarding terminology. While I (and others) may have used the term “Kingdom of God,” I was not using it according to its Biblical definition. I was taught that the Kingdom of God was over all, while the Kingdom of Heaven referred to the personal presence of the king from heaven (Jesus Christ) on earth. According to this theory, the Kingdom of Heaven started when Jesus began his public ministry, and will again be reinstated when he returns to reign, as described in the Book of Revelation.
I began to realize that my understanding of the Kingdom of God was sorely lacking when it was pointed out to me that the two phrases “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” are synonymous. The first article in this section demonstrates how parallel passages referring to the same thing call it “Kingdom of Heaven” in Matthew, and “Kingdom of God” in the other Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Both terms refer to something more than just the overall sovereignty of God.
Another common misconception among Christians involves the nature and content of the Gospel that we are supposed to preach. If you were to ask the average Christian, “What is the Gospel?” you would either get a vague answer, or else they would say it had to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus, or that he died for our sins. But while his death and resurrection are definitely vital elements of the Gospel, do they constitute the whole Gospel?
The second article in this section shows how Jesus and his disciples preached “the Gospel” for quite a long time before he ever began to speak about his death. There was a message that he preached consistently, and it is clearly identified as “the Kingdom of God.” Yet we hardly ever hear about it in most Christian circles. If it was the subject that Jesus most often preached on, shouldn’t we understand it and preach on it too?
A system of interpretation artificially divides the Bible and presents two completely separate plans of salvation, one for Israel and one for the Christian Church. But as the fourth article in this section shows, there is one consistant message all the way through the Bible. The good news was preached to Abraham, and we are declared to be heirs of the promises and the seed of Abraham if we accept Jesus Christ.
Paul preached the same Gospel that Jesus had preached, as can be seen from the book of Acts. His “gospel of grace” is not a different gospel, but the same gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus had preached. It is the central theme in his epistles as well, which is why he so frequently quoted from the Old Testament to make his points. He didn’t preach a whole new and different message, but further details concerning the same message that Jesus had preached.
In light of these things, one might wonder how so much misunderstanding came about. One of the biggest factors, historically, was the fact that after the Apostles died and more and more Gentiles became Christians, the understanding of the Hebrew foundations of the Gospel were gradually lost. Without the understanding of the foundation, the message itself became muddled. The fifth article in this section shows that the Bible is a Hebrew book, and reading it in light of its Hebrew origins is vital in gaining a true understanding of its overall theme.
The Old Testament is the foundation for the whole Bible, and especially for the understanding of the subject of the Kingdom of God. Without the Old Testament background, it is impossible to fully grasp the overall message, especially the words of Jesus. For this reason, the next section examines the Old Testament Foundation of the Gospel.
Another doctrine that I was taught is known in some circles as Dispensational Theology, or Dispensationalism. There are a number of versions of this doctrine, but what they have in common is the idea that throughout the Bible, and indeed throughout history, God has dealt with man in a variety of different ways depending on prevailing circumstances. There are a succession of dispensations or administrations that are characterized by differences in what God expects of man. In the original paradise all was perfect, but after man fell things were different, but there was no law of God to govern mankind. With the giving of the Law of Moses, a standard of behavior was set (at least for Israel), and when Christ came, another new administration began, because Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law.
On the surface, this is a reasonable understanding of the Scriptures, but there are some difficulties with the logical outcome of this system of theology. There is no question that there are different standards we are to maintain as Christians than there were for Israel under the Mosaic Law. Paul discussed this at length in Galatians and several other sections of his epistles. The difficulty comes about when we try to divide all of Scripture into administrations and then interpret parts of the Bible as if they did not apply to us. It was said that much of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament and the Gospels, were written “for our learning” but only the Church Epistles were written specifically to us. They used the following verse as proof:
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
The trouble with this is that, first of all, the verse does not say, “for our learning only.” Secondly, the Greek word for “learning” here is didaskalia which means “doctrine” or right believing. There is nothing in this verse that says the Old Testament or Gospels are not addressed to us.
The version of Dispensationalism that I was taught stated that the Kingdom of Heaven had entirely to do with Israel, and that during this present period of time when it was “held in abeyance” there was a new and radically different message and plan that was first given by revelation to the Apostle Paul. It was called the administration of The Mystery, because Paul writes of the Great Mystery that was kept secret since before the world began but was now revealed (Romans 16:25; I Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:9; 3:3; Colossians 1:27). Clearly something that had been a mystery was revealed to Paul, but is it referring to an entirely new plan of salvation, an entirely new gospel message, different from that which Jesus Christ preached?
This is in fact the most tragic result of Dispensationalism, because while we profess to be Christians, we put relatively little emphasis on his words. I was taught, and it is still widely stated by many preachers, that the deeds of Jesus Christ, more than his words, are what was important. His words, they say, were addressed to the children of Israel at that time, but it was the epistles of Paul that contained the relevant words addressed to us. But think about this. If the teachings of Jesus Christ were only addressed to his followers at the time, and would shortly be replaced by a whole new administration with a whole new plan, why were his words so carefully and diligently preserved in the four Gospels, which were written after the epistles and the revelation of the Mystery? Furthermore, if his words were to be replaced by a new revelation and become obsolete, why would he have made the following statement?
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
If the holy spirit would bring to remembrance whatsoever he had said, surely his words are important to the Christian Church, and not just to Israel. Contrary to what I was taught, the New Testament tells us that it is the words of Jesus Christ, as much as his deeds, which are to be the focus of Christianity.
31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
34 For he whom God hath sent speaks the words of God: for God gives not the Spirit by measure unto him.
63 It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
48 He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
I Timothy 6:
3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words…
It should be pointed out that the word “dispensation” in the Bible is the Greek word oikonomia. It only occurs seven times and only one of them says anything about a period of time, and that refers to the future “fullness of time” when Christ returns (Ephesians 1:10). To divide the Scriptures based on a perceived difference in administrations has the result of fragmenting the Scriptures, and thus fragmenting God’s plan. We end up with two different plans of salvation, one for Old Testament believers, one for Christians. We get two different messages in the Scriptures, one addressed to us, and one for our learning addressed to Israel. I was also taught that there were two means of salvation (by the Law in the Old Testament, and by grace in the New). There were two groups who were the “people of God” (Israel and the Church), two different hopes for those two groups (resurrection for Israel, and a “secret rapture” for the Church), and even two different inheritances– the Church had a home in heaven, with all the best promises, while Israel had the lesser inheritance on earth, with relatively inferior promises. The fact is, however, if we read the Bible from beginning to end, without the preconceived dispensational viewpoint, we find that God’s plan is and always has been one plan.
As God’s purpose unfolds in His Word, we do see different ways in which He deals with people based on the time in which they lived and the revealed truth available at the time. However, God had one plan from the very beginning to save all of mankind. If a person’s salvation were different, or somehow “less” than that of another, simply because they weren’t “born at the right time,” God would be unjust, and a respecter of persons. But God has not changed His plan since the first promise made in Genesis 3:15.
“There has grown up in the church, alongside a total neglect of the Bible, a dangerous partial use of it. As a church we declare that the Bible is the Word of God and we draw no distinctions between its parts. But in practice we confine our use almost entirely to selected sections…and ignore the rest as completely as if it had never been written. The result is that we not only neglect much that is valuable but, what is worse, we miss the deepest meaning of the very parts we use because we lift them from their larger context.”
The Kingdom of God
As we search the Scriptures, it becomes apparent that there has only ever been one gospel, not two. We are told, in fact, that it was first preached to Abraham.
8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed.
The promises to Abraham included land and abundance in physical categories, as well as spiritual blessings. The fact that we have the same promise of blessings as Abraham is shown in verse 29.
29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The definition of the Gospel of the Kingdom, built on the promises to Abraham, is found throughout the Old Testament, as we shall see. In the Gospels, John the Baptist, Jesus, and all of his disciples preached the Kingdom of God, as we saw above. In fact, Jesus said preaching the kingdom was the whole reason he was sent in Luke 4:43, as we saw above. The book of Acts ends with Paul continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:30,31). There is nothing to indicate that there was a change in the gospel message that the followers of Jesus were to preach.
It has been said that the gospel that Paul preached was not the same gospel that Jesus preached. I was taught that Paul’s gospel was different, because Jesus spoke of the kingdom, but Paul preached “the gospel of grace.”
24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
However, the very next verse defines what the gospel of grace is.
25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
And in verse 27 he equates that Gospel of the Kingdom of God with the whole purpose, or counsel, of God.
27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Unless Paul preached two different gospels, it is clear that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is the Gospel of Grace, which is all the counsel of God. It could not be a new gospel, for when Paul was giving his defense in Jerusalem in Acts 24, he says:
14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
I was taught that the promises to Israel as written in the Law and the Prophets were different from the Christian hope, yet Paul said he preached the same things that were promised to Israel.
6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:
7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.
The gospel Paul preached and the hope of the promise made to the fathers are the same gospel, and it was that message for which he was accused of the Jews. At the end of the book of Acts, nothing had changed as far as what gospel Paul preached.
23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
Paul refers to the kingdom of God in his epistles as well (Romans 14:17; I Corinthians 4:20; 6:10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Colossians 4:11; II Thessalonians 1:5), so his gospel can’t be different from that which Jesus preached. He criticized the Galatians for being swayed by “another gospel” and said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). If what he wrote about in his epistles was different from the Gospel of the Kingdom which he preached all through Acts, he would have been under his own curse. But in I Timothy 6:3, he states that we are to consent to the wholesome words of Jesus Christ.
I once believed that what Jesus taught concerning the Kingdom of God was addressed to Israel, and thus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, while the gospel that Paul and the apostles preached concerned the Great Mystery, which was not revealed in the Old Testament or in the time of Jesus Christ. If this is true, then why did Paul quote from the Old Testament so much? In Acts he preached the gospel, reasoning from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2; 18:28; 28:23). All throughout his epistles he constantly referred to Old Testament scriptures, as the foundation for his doctrine.
25 Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
“By the scriptures of the prophets” is the Old Testament scriptures. He cited many, many quotations from the Old Testament in his writing and public preaching. Why did Paul use the Old Testament so much if the Mystery was not revealed there? To understand this we must consider what is meant by a mystery. A mystery is not something that was never even mentioned, but rather something that was not understood. There is something to be seen or observed, or something spoken, but it is not understood by those who observe it. In Daniel, chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream which he wants interpreted. It is referred to as a “secret”.
17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:
18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king;
28 But there is a God in heaven that revealed secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;
29 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealed secrets makes known to thee what shall come to pass.
30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightiest know the thoughts of thy heart.
47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou could reveal this secret.
In the above verses, the word for “secret” in the Septuagint (the Geek translation of the Old Testament) is the word musterion which is the same word that is translated “mystery” in the New Testament. The dream was a mystery, because the understanding of its meaning was hidden.
Jesus told his apostles that it was given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to others he spoke in parables (Luke 8:10). The mysteries of the kingdom were not things that were never spoken, but things that were not understood when spoken, the result being that “…seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” There were also a number of things the apostles themselves did not understand at first. When Jesus first began to speak of his death and resurrection, they didn’t get it at all.
31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.
32 But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.
43 And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples,
44 Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.
45 But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.
Now when we read of Jesus being delivered into the hands of men and killed, we have no trouble understanding it, do we? Yet the disciples did not understand it, for it was hidden. Many of the things they saw and heard they did not understand at the time, but later it became clear.
16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it deemed Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.
God often said things through the Prophets that were not understood at the time they were spoken (many times even by the Prophets who spoke them). But later they were revealed after Jesus Christ fulfilled them. Until after it was accomplished, it was not understood how the suffering and death of the Messiah fit into the plan to bring God’s rule to earth, and how the Mosaic Law was then done away with. It was also not understood that a period of time would intervene between his first coming and his second, during which the nature and power of the Kingdom could be experienced in a limited, hidden form. And while it was said in many places in the Old Testament that the Gentiles would be blessed through Israel, it was never understood how they would be blessed, nor was it ever imagined that the Gentiles would be “fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6). These mysteries of the Kingdom were hinted at in the Old Testament, but their full meaning was not understood, until it was revealed to Paul, who then wrote about it in his epistles. This will be discussed in further detail in “Mysteries of the Kingdom.”
Paul wrote at length about what Jesus had accomplished by his suffering and death. But he did not imply that the result of Christ’s sacrifice was a new gospel, different from the Gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus had preached. For many years, I am ashamed to say, I rarely read the Gospels, because I believed they were not addressed to me.
The good news of God’s Kingdom is the one Gospel that ties together the entire Bible. The details concerning what Messiah’s sacrifice accomplished, how that fits into the overall plan, and what we have during this period of time as a foretaste of the coming Kingdom, are what Paul wrote about in his epistles. But they are added details; they do not constitute a new or different gospel. The death and resurrection of Jesus are absolutely fundamental to our gaining entrance into God’s Kingdom, but we must take care not to limit our definition of the Gospel to the death and resurrection, and neglect the full message concerning that Kingdom
Jesus Speaks to the crowd
Story: MY DOG CAN WALK ON WATER
There was a hunter who came into the possession of a special bird dog. The dog was the only one of its kind, because it can walk on water. One day he invited a friend to go hunting with him so that he could show off his prized possession. After some time, they shot a few ducks, which fell into the river. The man ordered his dog to run and fetch the birds. The dog ran on water to fetch the birds. The man was expecting a compliment about the amazing dog, but did not receive it. Being curious, he asked his friend if the friend had noticed anything unusual about the dog. The friend replied, “Yes, I did see something unusual about your dog. Your dog can’t swim!”
More than 90% of the people that we face everyday are negative. They choose to look at the hole in the middle rather than the doughnut. Do not expect compliments or encouragement from them. These are the people who cannot pull you out of your present situation. They can only push you down. So be aware of them, spend less time with them, and do not let them steal your dreams
away from you.
YOUR ARE WORTH
A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill? Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” He started to crumple the dollar bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. “Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. “Now who wants it?” Many more hands went up.
My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. The$20 bill did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.
God bless you!
Fr. Rudolf D’Souza, OCD
As I have mentioned last week, I will be away from Monday, November 9 until the first week of December. Please pray for the success of the retreats that I will be preaching in the UAE (3 cities). This engagement was booked almost 2 years ago before I got this assignment in Guardian Angels. Likewise I will keep you all in my prayers while I am away. I will certainly miss you all.
God bless, Fr. Rudolf