(Posted from latest to oldest articles.)
August 7, 2022 - Salvation and Judgment - Luis Dizon
The theme of this passage is God’s justice, which is exemplified in the Passover story as recounted in Wisdom 18. The preceding verse to our first reading summarizes the story by using the slaughter of the Hebrew boys and the death of the Egyptian firstborn as bookends for the drama of God’s justice on behalf of His people:
When they had planned to kill the children of the holy people,
and one child had been abandoned and rescued,
for a rebuke, you removed a multitude of children from them
and destroyed them together in mighty water. (Wisdom 18:5)
The reading goes on to tell us that the Hebrews were forewarned of the impending plague, which is why they were able to plan accordingly by painting the blood the lambs on their doorposts (Exodus 12). And when their salvation came, they rejoiced at it.
It also highlights how God stays true to His promise to bless the Israelites, since it is through them that Christ would come. The Israelites believed in His promise, and demonstrated their faith by offering sacrifices and singing praises (verse 9), which is a reference to the first Passover meal. They thus demonstrate the same faith as Old Testament patriarchs such as Abraham, who is presented to us as a model of faith in the epistle reading (Hebrews 1:1-2, 8-19). Although they do not see the ultimate fulfillment of the promise in Christ, they see their lives as part of that drama of redemption, and accordingly live their lives in faith.
Although we live after Christ came, we too must live by faith, since we are told in today’s Gospel that He will come again at a time we do not expect. When He comes, it will be infinitely more spectacular than what the Israelites experienced. It will be a day of rejoicing for those who believe, but of judgment for those who disbelieved and chose to reject God. We must be ready for Judgment Day to come at any time, which we are constantly reminded of every time we recite the last line of the Creed: “We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
July 31, 2022 - Vanity of Vanities - Luis Dizon
Ecclesiastes can be an enigma to readers, because of its seemingly nihilistic attitude towards life. In this passage, we see that all of the things one might esteem as important - wisdom, knowledge, wealth - are regarded as vanity. In fact, it is more than just vanity. Ecclesiastes refers to the fact that one’s toil benefits another person who does not toil for it to be “a great evil.” Paradoxically, the reverse - a rich man keeping his own wealth to himself - is also considered a grievous evil (5:13-17). But why does Ecclesiastes present such a pessimistic outlook, and how does one interpret this passage as a Christian?
The key to understanding Ecclesiastes is to read it in light of the rest of Scripture. In particular, one should read it alongside todays’ other scripture readings. In the Gospel, Jesus warns against the vanity of storing up treasures on earth rather than in heaven. In the epistle, St. Paul exhorts Christians to seek what is above, rather than what is on earth. These scriptures teach us that the value of all earthly goods and achievements are temporary, since they will pass away with the rest of the world. We should only value them insofar as they help to achieve heavenly goods. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Finally, going back to the book of Ecclesiastes, we can fully grasp the author’s intention only if we read all the way to the end of the book. The last two verses lay out the only way to live a life worth living, which is to live it in obedience to God’s commandments:
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
July 24, 2022 - Praying Ceaselessly - Luis Dizon
In this passage, we see Abraham interceding on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to save his nephew Lot. However, he also brings out some important aspects of God’s character in the course of his conversation with God. Here, we see two important themes on display:
1)The triumph of God’s mercy. Scripture tells us that God does not delight in the death of the wicked, and that He does not wish for anyone to perish, but for all to be saved (Ezekiel 18:23, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). However, God is also just, and His justice demands that evil be punished. Here, we see the interplay between mercy and justice, and the primacy God gives to the former. Abraham intercedes before God to spare the city if fifty righteous souls are found in it, and continues interceding until that number is brought down to ten. Even when less than ten are found, God finds a way to rescue those righteous souls. The ultimate expression of God’s mercy, however, is found in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to save us from our sins.
2) The importance of ceaseless prayer. This connects with the Gospel reading, where Jesus teaches us to pray ceaselessly. Sometimes God does not respond right away, but we must never cease asking Him. Likewise, God was willing to negotiate with Abraham for the sake of the souls in Sodom and Gomorrah, but it takes Abraham taking the initiative to intercede for something to happen, the ultimate result of which is the rescue of Lot and his daughters. This is according to God’s infinite wisdom, Who already knows what we’ll ask before we ask it (Matt. 6:8), yet still desires to include our desires and decisions. Old Testament scholar John Goldingay brings out the full import of this reading:
We might have thought Abraham was here speaking with God. But the story closes by referring to God’s having been speaking with Abraham. That fits the way the account of the prayer starts with God’s hanging around after the departure of the other two “men,” almost as if to ask, “Is there anything you want to say to me before I go, Abraham?” Abraham is indeed like a member of the heavenly cabinet whom God wants to involve in the process of decision making about what happens on earth. His prayer takes place within God’s purpose, not against it
 John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 17–50 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 26.
July 17, 2022 - When God Appears - By Luis Dizon
In the Old Testament, God would occasionally appear in human form to His people for the purpose of accomplishing specific tasks. This is called a theophany. There are a few other such theophanies in scripture, such as Exodus 24:9-11, and Isaiah 6. These theophanies serve to show that God is not beyond coming down and appearing to His people directly rather than through an intermediary such as a prophet or angel. This is in contrast to certain religious ideas which posit God as being too transcendent to ever appear to His creation. The ultimate theophany, of course, is the Incarnation, when God takes human flesh and dwells among us as Jesus Christ (John 1:14).
In this reading, God appears to Abraham with two angels, who will go on to take part in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham recognizes who it is that has come to him, since he refers to his guest as “Lord” (v. 3; see RSV/NRSV), and proceeds to provide the customary Middle Eastern hospitality. As Abraham entertains his guest, God then reveals to him that he will have a son. Here we see how God considered Abraham His friend (cf. Isaiah 41:8), since He chose to communicate the news of Abraham’s coming son to him directly. Jesus will refer to this event during His ministry, implying that He is the one who appeared to Abraham by the Oaks of Mamre (John 8:54-59).
We also see God’s faithfulness to His promise that Abraham will have numerous descendants, even after Abraham’s mistakes in previous chapters (e.g. lying about his wife to Pharaoh, and acquiescing to Sarah’s demand to impregnate and drive away Hagar), as well as Sarah’s incredulity (vv. 11-15). Abraham receives God’s promises in faith, and because of this is listed in the New Testament as one of the great heroes of faith for us to emulate (Hebrews 11:8-12). Even if God does not appear to us directly, we are nevertheless called to have the faith of Abraham, and thus become Abraham’s spiritual children (Galatians 3:29).
July 10, 2022 - The Benefits of God’s Law - By Luis Dizon
G.K. Chesterton once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” His statement speaks to the fact that many people perceive Christianity as having too many rules and being too hard to follow. This is not something new, as people have always struggled with the demands of Christian morality. Even in the Old Testament, we see Israel constantly failing to live up to God’s Law. They would fall into idolatry, injustice and sexual immorality, and it was never long before they faced the consequences of those actions.
For the natural person, God’s commandments cannot truly be followed without the aid of grace. To the one who is assisted by and cooperates with grace, however, they will find God’s laws so much easier to follow. Not only does it become easier, but as this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm shows us, we also learn to find joy in obedience and the benefits it brings. We learn that the Law revives the soul and makes wise the simple, that it rejoices the heart and enlightens the eyes, and finally it ends by saying:
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
The point that both readings make is that God’s laws are always for our benefit. If we fail to appreciate those laws, it’s because we don’t understand how they are better for us in the long run. It shouldn’t surprise us then that the world flouts those laws pertaining to sexual relations, or of justly treating our neighbour, or of not murdering the unborn. The world finds these laws antiquated and overly restrictive, but they are right and just, and can be shown to be true. Those who are enlightened by the Spirit understand the wisdom behind these laws.
Perhaps most of us still find such obedience to be burdensome. Perhaps we feel pressure from the world to disregard them. We should pray for the enlightenment of the Spirit to see these laws for the good they bring us, and receive strength from Christ in the Eucharist to live properly Christian lives.
July 3, 2022 - Blessings and Curses - By Luis Dizon
Isaiah is full of contrasts. On the one hand, he speaks of God chastising His people for their sins by withdrawing His protection from them and allowing them to be subjugated by foreign powers such as the Assyrians and Babylonians. On the other hand, he also speaks of comfort and blessing for them after the Exile brings about their repentance.
This contrast is clearly seen in this last chapter, which focuses on God’s blessings on His people. He promises to restore to them everything they’d lost during the exile. However, this comes right before some of the most frightening words in the Old Testament. Verse 24 warns that those who choose to continually disobey God are, in effect, choosing hellfire for themselves, in the following words: “And they shall go forth and look on the dead bodies of the men that have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
This highlights a theme that appears continually throughout Scripture: Blessings and curses. In the Old Testament, God promises blessings upon Israel if they believe and obey Him, but curses upon them if they disbelieve and disobey. Israel was continually rebelling against God. When God allows them to receive the consequences of their choices, they would realize their errors, repent and receive God’s blessing, only to fall into sin again sometime afterwards.
The contrast between blessings and curses connects to this Sunday’s Gospel reading as well, as Jesus contrasts those who receive His disciples with those who do not. Those who receive them obtain God’s peace, and the Kingdom of God has come upon them. Those who do not receive them have rejected God, and if they persist in this until the end of their lives, they separate themselves eternally from Him (Luke 10:1-12).
At an individual level, we are also called to choose whether to follow the path of life or the path of death. The early Christians referred to this as the “Two Ways.” One early Christian document called the Didache puts it this way: “There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways” (Didache 1.1). Each of us are faced with this choice every day: To follow the way of life, or the way of death.
June 26, 2022 - Elisha’s Call - By Luis Dizon
Elisha is one of the lesser-known Old Testament prophets. His ministry comes right after that of Elijah, who “passes the mantle” to him in our Sunday reading. Interestingly, prophets are not typically anointed, which makes this calling rather atypical.
After Elijah is taken up to heaven, he ministers as a prophet in the northern Kingdom of Israel for over two decades. Although he is just as significant in Israel’s history, he has ever been in the shadow of his mentor, similar to how Joshua remained in the shadow of Moses.
Elisha’s ministry is known for the many miracles that he performed. Some, such as his raising of the Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:7-37), the feeding of the one hundred (2 Kings 4:42-44) and the healing of Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5) were types of miracles that Jesus would later perform in his own ministry. Even in death, Elisha’s bones caused a dead man to be brought back from the dead (2 Kings 13:21), which foreshadows how Christ would bring about our Resurrection.
Similarly, in the story of his calling to ministry, we see a parallel with Jesus’ call to follow Him in today’s Gospel reading (Luke 9:51-62). Just as Elijah called Elisha to leave everything behind, Jesus calls His future disciples to leave everything behind for His sake. The urgency of that call is magnified by the fact that although Elijah allows Elisha to stay behind for a short while to finish his business, Jesus makes no such provision. His call is so radical that only the truly devoted would embrace it.
A similar call is extended to those called to the priesthood or religious life, but every one of us are also invited to give our lives over to Him, to be detached from worldly things and to trust in Him completely. The only question is whether we will respond to His call or not.
June 19, 2022 - The Eternal Priest - By Luis Dizon
Melchizedek is one of those enigmatic characters in the Bible. He appears out of nowhere in the middle of Abraham’s storyline and blesses the patriarch, offering him bread and wine. We are given no background information other than that he is a “King of Salem” and “priest of God Most High.” Salem is traditionally identified as Jerusalem, which is where the Israelite temple would later be built, and where their priests would serve.
Melchizedek appears next in Psalm 110:4, which states: “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, You are a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4). Hence, Psalm 110 is picked as the responsorial Psalm on this day. This is also one of the most quoted Psalms in the New Testament. Jesus often appeals to it as a prophecy of His own kingship and priesthood (e.g. Mark 12:35-37).
The specific verse citing Melchizedek is only cited, however, in Hebrews 5:6 and 7:3. The rest of chapters 5-7 speak about how Christ has become an eternal high priest. In verse 10, the author states that He was “designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.”
But why Melchizedek? In Hebrew tradition, he was considered a mysterious figure. The Dead Sea Scrolls present him as being present at the dawn of creation (11QMelch), and that he is an eschatological judge who will descend from Heaven in the last days to destroy the devil (11Q13). We see echoes of this in Hebrews 7:3, which speak of him as, “without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever.” One could easily see him, then, as a Christophany, or an appearance of Christ before the incarnation, since he is said to be without a beginning (i.e. eternal). In addition, when he offers bread and wine to Abraham we see in this a type of the Eucharist, which Christ instituted at the Last Supper.
All of this is especially relevant to remember this Feast of Corpus Christi, as we commemorate Christ’s priestly work in and through the Eucharist, who is forever our high priest under the order of Melchizedek. Everything that we do this Sunday is ultimately connected back to His priesthood. Thus we remember that in the celebration of the Eucharist, “as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
June 12, 2022 - Wisdom Incarnate - By Luis Dizon
Today is Trinity Sunday in the Liturgical Calendar. This day celebrates the doctrine of the Trinity, which is the central belief of the Christian faith on God’s nature. It is defined as the belief that God is one being, yet three distinct persons. The Catechism describes the Trinity as follows:
The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”. The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God.” In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.” (CCC 253)
If you are wondering how the passage from Proverbs came to be chosen as the first reading for this Sunday, one has to go back to the ancient debates about the person of Christ. Christian tradition has held that “Wisdom,” as described in Proverbs, describes Christ before He became incarnate as a man. This idea goes back to St. Paul, who calls Christ “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
However, this led to debates over whether or not Christ was created. Some translations state that the Lord “possessed” Wisdom at the beginning (e.g. DRB and ESV), while others translate it as “created” (e.g. RSV, NRSV and NJB) or “begot” (e.g. NABRE). This ambiguity arises because the Hebrew verb qanah, while it can be translated as “to create,” more often simply means “to possess,” which does not necessitate Wisdom being created. The interpretation that this verb points to creation stems from the Greek Septuagint’s rendering of this verb as ktizō, which does mean “to create.” Orthodox interpreters of this passage usually reply by noting that the context of Proverbs 8:22-31 distinguishes Wisdom from the created order, rather than making Wisdom a part of it. They also argue that it is inconceivable that God would create Wisdom because this would mean that there was a time when God was without Wisdom. If this interpretation is accepted, then the eternality of Wisdom is preserved.
Thus, after much debate over this verse, it came to be recognized that it does not teach that Wisdom was created. This is further corroborated by numerous passages of scripture which teach that Jesus is fully God and consubstantial with the Father, just as is affirmed in the Nicene Creed.
This is important to remember in the face of many religions and sects that want to downplay this truth, either by saying Jesus was simply a prophet, or an archangel, or one of many deities – all of which are inadequate ways of understanding the person of Christ. Because of its centrality to the Faith, all Christians should take the time to understand the Trinity and learn how to both explain and defend it to others, as well as contemplate the implications of God’s tri-unity in our own lives. We are enabled to have a relationship with our Heavenly Father, with His only Son, Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit, who is always there to help us.
June 5, 2022 - From Babel to Pentecost - By Luis Dizon
Those who attend both the Saturday evening and Sunday Masses during Pentecost may notice that the first reading is different in both. On Saturday evening, the story of Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 is read, while the Pentecost narrative from Acts 2 is read on Sunday. The use of two different readings is significant once one uncovers the connection between both.
In the Babel story, the people construct a tower (known in ancient times as a Ziggurat), which they believe will enable them to reach God directly. They also hope by this to create a name for themselves. God, seeing the worldly ambition and wicked intentions behind this plan, frustrates the building of the tower by making the builders unable to understand one another. Whereas before they all spoke one common language, afterwards they no longer had this common language. Thus, they were unable to continue working towards this tower, and dispersed into different nations.
Fast forward the Pentecost, and we see the Holy Spirit granting Jesus’ disciples the ability to speak different languages, in accordance with Joel 2:28-32, where God declares that He will send His Spirit upon all flesh. This gift enables them to speak to all the different nations assembled in Jerusalem for the feast. They are all able to understand the disciples’ preaching, and this causes the Gospel to spread throughout the world, uniting believers into one body from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
Pentecost, therefore, is a reversal of Babel. At Babel, God divides the people into different nations by confusing their language. At Pentecost. God uses the miraculous imparting of languages to unite the different nations into one people: His Church. Unlike at Babel, the Church is not united by any earthly idea or thing, but by the Holy Spirit. This task of uniting the nations will continue until, in the words of Revelation, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:5)
May 29, 2022 – Ascended in Heaven - By Luis Dizon
The book of Acts begins with an account of the forty days between the Resurrection of Jesus and His Ascension into Heaven. It continues the account in Luke’s Gospel, and is even addressed to the same individual, Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4), with the focus shifting from the ministry of Jesus to that of the Apostles.
In our reading, we see Jesus giving his parting words to the Apostles. They still have some misconceptions about Jesus’ ministry, since they ask if He will restore the Kingdom to Israel at that time (v. 6). Jesus replies that they are not to know the timing of God’s plan (v. 7), indicating that it will not be a Kingdom like all the kingdoms of this world, and it will not be limited to Israel. The Kingdom will come by different means and a different timeframe than what they were expecting.
They are further told that they would be God’s agents for bringing about that Kingdom. When Jesus states “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (v. 8), He indicates how the Kingdom will expand outwards, beginning with the Jews, and then to the rest of the nations.
After Jesus ascends into Heaven, the angels tell them that He will return the same way He came, forecasting Jesus’ Second Coming in glory (v. 11). Until then, the Apostles are to busy themselves with converting the nations and preparing them for Jesus’ return, which they will accomplish through preaching the Gospel.
This task continues today, and every believer has the task of assisting in the spread of the Gospel, through direct evangelization, doing works of mercy, and contributing financially to the work of the Church. This work is to continue until Jesus comes again, when we will see the final result of all our work (1 Cor. 3:12-14).
May 22, 2022 - From Law to Grace - By Luis Dizon
Acts 15 recounts the first Church council to ever take place. The Jerusalem Council was convened in response to the rise of the Judaizer heresy, which taught that it was necessary for Gentile Christians to be circumcised and become Jews to be saved. Writing shortly before this, St. Paul recalled how Judaizers came to Antioch and were convincing even apostles such as St. Peter to separate from the Gentiles. The problem was serious enough that he declared that these Judaizers were preaching a different Gospel and under anathema (Gal. 1-2).
This Council came to the decision that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised or keep the ritual obligations of the Mosaic law to become Christians. However, this did not mean they were under no obligations whatsoever. In our reading from Acts, we see how Gentiles were given a few basic rules, which included avoiding sexual immorality, food sacrificed to idols, meat from strangled animals, and consuming blood. The purpose of these rules, as Paul explains elsewhere, is to avoid giving offense to anyone lest they stumble, as well as to avoid inadvertently taking part in the worship of demons (1 Cor. 8-10).
The last thing to note is that the Jerusalem Council appeals to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their decision, stating “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (v. 28). This serves as Biblical evidence for the Magisterium, as it shows how God leads the Church through collective decisions of her leaders to arrive at the truth.
From this passage, we see not only how God guides His Church, but also how this guidance allowed her to resolve one of the earliest doctrinal controversies. This in turn opened the door for all nations to be converted. Finally, it is an occasion for us to rejoice that we do not have to become Jews to enter into a saving relationship with God, because in the words of Paul, we are “not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
May 15, 2022 - Trial and Victory – By Luis Dizon
Throughout his first missionary journey, St. Paul travelled to many places throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus (13:3-12), Perga (13:13) Pisidian Antioch (13:14-52), Iconium (14:1-7), and Lystra (14:8-23), as well as several smaller towns in Galatia (which are mentioned in our reading). In these cities, Paul performed many miracles and gained many converts, but also encountered much opposition, and in Lystra, he was even stoned and left for dead, although he actually managed to survive (14:19-20).
These experiences would inform his message to newly-ordained clergy of the churches he founded in Galatia. He informs them that they and their flocks will face many trials before entering God’s kingdom (v.22). He tells them this that they would not lose hope but be strengthened and prepared for when it comes. Indeed, persecutions soon broke out in that region, resulting in many martyrs.
However, believers were not to lose hope, because the trials they would face not only lead them to heaven, but also the salvation of many souls. Indeed, Paul rejoices that God had “opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (v. 27). Through it all, he affirms that it is God at work in them, meaning that ultimately, it is not their own efforts that produce fruit, but the grace of God.
This pattern is repeated in every age, where Christians face trials for their faith, but this ultimately brings about the growth of Christianity. As Tertullian once said, “the blood of the martyrs is seed,” which means that it is when the fires of persecution are most intense that God is most actively at work, converting souls and expanding His Kingdom.
May 8, 2022 - Appointed to Eternal Life – By Luis Dizon
Acts 13-14 chronicles the first of Paul’s missionary journeys, where he travels around Cyprus and Asia Minor to spread the Gospel. In each city he enters, he always goes to the Jewish community first, as we see in our reading. This is in accordance with his policy of preaching the Gospel “to the Jew first” (Rom. 1:16). His message to them focuses on how God’s salvific history as found in the Hebrew Bible finds its culmination in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus (Acts 13:26-41).
When he preaches this message in the synagogues, he often encounters intense hostility from the Jews, as his message of a crucified Messiah ran counter to their expectations of what the Messiah would be like. Paul would later write about how the majority of the Jews hardened their hearts against Christ, and why God would allow this to happen (Rom. 9-11).
After this, Paul quotes Isaiah 49:6, which speaks of God’s servant bringing salvation to the ends of the earth. After this, Paul went out and preached to the Gentiles of the city, and as verse 48 states, “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” This highlights how despite Jewish opposition, the word of God did not go forth empty but accomplished the task for which it went out, namely the conversion of souls (cf. Isa. 55:10-11). It also shows how God’s plan of salvation is now being extended to non-Jews as well.
This story is a great example of how evangelization works. When we proclaim the Gospel, we often encounter opposition from people. However, there will always be some who are receptive to the Gospel, and it is for their sake that we speak the word. Our job is not to convince others to believe, but to proclaim the message. As Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6).
May 1, 2022 - Obeying God Rather Than Men - By Luis Dizon
Last Sunday (Acts 5:12-16), we read how the Apostles proclaimed the Gospel in the Jerusalem Temple, and performed many miracles there. Many were converted through their preaching and signs, and over five thousand people became believers in Jerusalem alone (Acts 4:4).
Their Gospel did not go over well with the Jewish leaders, who were threatened by the new message which overturned their most cherished expectations about the Messiah. In today’s reading, we see how the Sanhedrin arrested the Apostles and forbade them from preaching any further. Rather than giving in, Peter responds to them by saying, “We must obey God rather than men” (v. 29).
Verses 33-39, which are omitted from the reading, state that the Sanhedrin were enraged and wanted to kill them, but rabbi Gamaliel intervened, stating that every other Messianic movement has failed, because their leaders were just men. If the Jesus movement is from God, not only would the Sanhedrin not be able to stop it, but they would even be found to be opposing God.
After being beaten and released, we are told that “every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah” (v. 42). Even after their experience, they continued to be emboldened, and the Church continued to grow.
The Apostles’ reaction to Jewish opposition is a great example for us when we encounter adversity from the secular world. The Christian message is bound to be unpopular because it overturns many of our world’s ideologies and value systems, so we should not be surprised to find opposition. Like the Apostles, we should not be cowed into submission by them, but should likewise say “we must obey God rather than men,” and proclaim the Gospel ever more bravely, praying that it will transform hearts and minds.
April 24, 2022 - Signs and Wonders - By Luis Dizon
During the early days of the Church, the Apostles spent much of their time preaching at Solomon’s Portico, located at the outer court of the Temple. This is where many early miracles took place, such as the healing of the lame beggar, which became the occasion for one of St. Peter’s early sermons (Acts 3). They continued this even when the authorities began persecuting them, and it is said that “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:42, ESV-CE).
In our reading, we see many miraculous healings and exorcisms done by the Apostles. This fulfills Jesus’ words that “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do” (John 14:12). These miracles show that Jesus has granted His authority to the Apostles by His Spirit. It is also a sign that the Kingdom of God was in their midst (cf. Luke 11:20), and that God continues to actively work in our world.
The narrative focuses specifically on the healings wrought by St. Peter. He is also the one who speaks on behalf of the apostolic band, and performs most of the miracles in the first half of Acts, showing his centrality to the narrative and the special authority he had among the Apostles.
The end result of this was that new believers “were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (v. 14). This shows how God’s power is effective not only for healing, but also converting the soul, and were vital to the growth of the Church.
All of these healings, while they demonstrate God’s power, are merely foretastes of the Resurrection, when God will fully restore us all bodily. In the meantime, we continue to struggle with sickness and brokenness, rejoicing whenever someone is made whole (whether through natural or supernatural means), and looking forward when all these things will be done away with forever.
April 17, 2022 - Witnesses of the Lord - By Luis Dizon
During the Easter Season, the first reading for Sundays is taken from the book of Acts rather than the Old Testament. Acts chronicles the life of the early church, and how the Christianity spread from its birthplace in Jerusalem to the rest of the known world, culminating in St. Paul’s voyage to Rome.
In our reading, St. Peter is preaching to the church in Judea regarding the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Twice, he appeals to the fact that he and the Apostles were witnesses to these things. He says this to emphasize the fact that he is not merely passing on something that he heard from others, but experienced directly. As he writes in one of his epistles, “we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
Likewise, St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, recounts how when Jesus was raised from the dead, “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
By appealing to eyewitness testimony, the Apostles assure us that the Resurrection is not a myth, or hearsay. Rather, it is a real historical event that took place in a definite place and time. And because it is a real event, it has real consequences for our lives. Paul teaches us that our eternal life depends on whether we confess and live by the reality of the Resurrection: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
April 10, 2022 - The Value of the Old Testament Readings - By Luis Dizon
Every Sunday Mass, we hear three Scripture readings: One from the Old Testament (or Acts during Easter), one from the Epistles, and one from the Gospels. Most of the attention is given to the Gospel reading, and for good reason, because it is in the Gospel where we encounter the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Hence, most homilies focus on explaining the Gospel and its relevance for us.
However, we should not ignore the other readings, especially the first one. Many Catholics know little about the Old Testament beyond maybe the basic Bible stories everyone learns as a child. We hear stories from historical books such as Kings and Chronicles, or prophetic proclamations from the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, and we don’t quite know what to do with them. This is a shame, because the Old Testament provides the background for the New, without which much of what is in the New Testament simply doesn’t make sense.
More importantly, our Old Testament readings always connect to the Gospel readings in some way. Sometimes they connect very directly, while other times the connection is more subtle. For example, this Sunday, we read a prophecy about in Isaiah 50:4-7 about a servant who is sent by God to speak to his people. At the end of the passage, the servant speaks of his sufferings, and how he continues to trust in the Lord despite this. That is where we learn that this passage actually foreshadows Christ, who is entering into Jerusalem to prepare for His death and resurrection. Thus, our reading in Isaiah helps shed light on our Lord’s Passion in the Gospel.
St. Augustine once said, “In the Old Testament the New is concealed, in the New the Old is revealed.” Our Missal readings reflect that. My hope is to explain the significance of our Old Testament readings, especially as they relate to the Gospel. That way, those listening to the readings can better appreciate why they are read during Mass.
Those interested to learn more about the Old Testament readings can check out my website, Missal Reflections (https://missalreflections.wordpress.com), where I explain them in detail. During Easter season, I do the same for the Acts readings, which replace the usual Old Testament readings. In future articles for this bulletin, I hope to provide simplified versions of these explanations, which focus on the Gospel connection and practical application of the readings.