(Posted from latest to oldest articles.)
December 25, 2022 – The Child King (Christmas) - Luis Dizon
The readings from the book of Isaiah continue past the Advent season into Christmas. This reading directly relates to the Nativity, as the prophet declares that a great light would come upon the people (v. 2). The Gospel of Matthew directly relates this to the coming of Jesus, whose ministry fulfills this prophecy (Matthew 4:14-16).
Further on in the reading, we have a direct prophecy of the Incarnation. In verse 6, a child is born, who is said to bear the government on his shoulders. Jewish tradition regards this as a Messianic prophecy. The titles given to the child are significant. In the ancient world, rulers acquired royal titles upon their accession to the throne, which reflected something about themselves. Here, we see four titles given to the child, which are:
Finally, we are told that the increase of His Kingdom will never end (v. 7). This reflects Jesus’ parables where He talk of the Kingdom as something that grows ever larger (e.g. Matthew 13:31-35). The birth of Christ signals the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth, which we will one day see fully realized when He returns in glory at the Second Coming. As we reflect on the Christ child this Christmas, we remember that He who was born is no mere child, but the King of the nations.
December 18, 2022 - God With Us (Fourth Sunday of Advent) - Luis Dizon
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This reading comes in the middle of a narrative where Syria and Israel are at war with Judah, and seek to overthrow king Ahaz. As the Davidic king, Ahaz is part of the promise that God made to David that his dynasty would rule forever (2 Samuel 7). However, the king is weak in his faith, which can be seen in how he reacts to news of the war: “When the house of David was told, ‘Syria is in league with Ephraim,’ his heart and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” (Isaiah 7:2)
To strengthen his faith, Isaiah tells him to ask God for a sign. Ahaz rejects it under the pretense of not wanting to test the Lord. Isaiah sees through this false piety, however, and says that it wearies the Lord. It is true that God says “You shall not test the Lord, your God” (Deuteronomy 6:16). If God is offering the sign, however, it is not the same as testing. As John Goldingay observes: “Sometimes God disapproves of people who want signs, but sometimes God grants signs. Maybe there’s a difference between people who want to believe but need help and people who don’t want to believe and want an excuse for avoiding doing so. Ahaz comes in the latter category.”
And then Isaiah mentions what the sign will be: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) English translations differ on whether to translate the Hebrew word ‘Almah (עַלְמָ֗ה) as “virgin,” or “young woman,” since the word can mean either. The Greek Septuagint translates the word as parthenos (παρθένος), which more clearly means virgin, and is the basis of the Gospel quotation of this verse.
There is an immediate fulfillment of the passage in Ahaz’s lifetime, as indicated in verses 15-17:
He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah - the king of Assyria.
This fulfilment comes when Isaiah has a son through an unnamed prophetess (Isaiah 8:1-4). In the spirit of Old Testament prophecy, however, there is both the immediate and the more distant future fulfillment. This more distant fulfillment is told in our Gospel reading (Matthew 1:18-24). The Gospel indicates to us that the birth of Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy in an even fuller way.
Ahaz may have experienced a temporal deliverance during his lifetime, but those living after the coming of the Messiah experience an even greater deliverance from sin and eternal death. As Advent gives way to Christmas, we reflect upon this deliverance that God grants us through Jesus.
 John Goldingay, Isaiah for Everyone, Old Testament for Everyone (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2015), 34.
December 11, 2022 - The Restoration of All Things (Third Sunday of Advent) - Luis Dizon
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Even though the prophet Isaiah lived over a century before the Babylonian exile, the Holy Spirit inspired him to speak of events that would happen long after his lifetime. This way, God’s people would know what was going to happen to them before it arrives, and would be prepared for it. They would also be able to look back in hindsight and see that the messages they received in the past are truly from God, as God alone has knowledge of the future. More importantly, through these messages they would have hope and not lose faith in God in the midst of their captivity.
Even though the exile was a dark time in Jewish history, Isaiah predicted that they would be restored to their land. We see this prophecy fulfilled seventy years after they go into captivity, in the late 6th century B.C. The geographical references in this passage (Lebanon, Carmel and Sharon in v. 2, and Zion in v. 10) indicate that this prophecy concerns both the northern and southern tribes. By this act, God shows both His goodness and mercy towards His people, and His sovereignty over the events of history, ordering them as He wills.
Moreover, this return from exile foreshadows a greater rescue that would take place even later. The return from exile is a type of the rescue from sin that is accomplished for us by Christ. And finally, the restoration of the land mentioned in the first few verses of Isaiah 35 foreshadow the ultimate restoration of all things in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22). On that day, all of the promises made by God in Isaiah will be fully realized.
Therefore, this Advent, we not only look back to the incarnation, by which Christ took on flesh to redeem us, but we also forward to that glorious future when all will be restored to a paradisaical state, just as the prophecy of Isaiah described.
December 4, 2022 - The Root of Jesse (Second Sunday of Advent) - Luis Dizon
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This is the second prophecy from Isaiah that refers to the coming of the Messiah (the first one was Isaiah 2:1-5). The passage begins with a reference to Jesse, who is the father of king David. The image of the stump signifies that the Davidic lineage is all but gone when this prophecy is fulfilled. The Judaic monarchy has been abolished, and the holy land is under pagan subjugation. Despite this, however, a descendant will emerge, who will be empowered by the spirit of God to do great things (verses 1-2).
The rest of the prophecy has still yet to be fulfilled. Isaiah speaks of the Messiah’s judgment (verses 3-5), which will happen when Jesus returns on the last day. The images of judgment here parallel our Gospel reading, where John the Baptist warns of the impending fire (Matthew 3:10-12). St. John describes how all this will come about (Revelation 20:11-15).
After this judgment comes where there will be no more wars or fear of wild animals, and the whole world will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord (verses 6-9). This imagery parallels Revelation 21-22, which describes the new heavens and new earth that will be brought about when Christ returns. It describes a world without death or sadness, where everything that plagues our current age will be long forgotten. It is a restoration of the paradise that existed in Genesis, before the corruption of the Fall.
Perhaps the most surprising part about the prophecy for its Jewish readers, however, is the reference to the nations (verse 10). The Jewish conception of the Messiah tended to be nationalistic, and centered around the redemption of Israel. Here, however, Isaiah prophesies that the Messiah will lead not just Israel, but all the other nations. His salvation is for the whole world (cf. 1 John 2:2).
Even now, we continue to await Christ’s return. When He returns, Isaiah’s vision of a world of peace will finally be fully realized. Until then, we must strive to spread the Good News of God’s Kingdom to as many people as we can, in fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:11)
November 27, 2022 - Turning Towards Zion (First Sunday of Advent) - Luis Dizon
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The prophet Isaiah made many predictions regarding the coming of the Messiah, which are read over the course of Advent. This is one such passage. It refers to knowledge of God’s law spreading from Mt. Zion to the ends of the earth. This will result in the nations turning towards God, and a cessation of conflict on earth.
This prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus, who through His Church has scattered the knowledge of God to all nations. The spread of God’s law from Jerusalem may be seen in two ways: Taken literally, this refers to the fact that the Gospel first spread from Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2). Taken figuratively, this passage refers to the spiritual Jerusalem, which is the Church as God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19, Hebrews 12:22). Wherever the Gospel spreads, it transforms the societies it comes into contact with, bringing with it peace and justice.
Nevertheless, the fulfillment of this prophecy remains far from finished. We already see some elements of the Messianic Kingdom in places where Christianity has left its mark, but that kingdom has not yet been fully consummated. Unbelief continues to rule over majority of the world’s population. Furthermore, wars still rage and sufferings still continue, and will continue to do so until Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes speaks of how total transformation will only occur at the end of time when Jesus returns, at which point the Kingdom of God becomes fully realized:
For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: “a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.” On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower. (Gaudium et Spes 39)
November 20, 2022 - The Davidic King (Solemnity of Christ the King) - Luis Dizon
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In 1-2 Samuel, we see the establishment of the Israelite monarchy. Before this monarchy, Israel was ruled by a series of judges, the last of whom was Samuel. The people of Israel demanded a king so that they could be like all the other nations, although God warned them that this would be to their detriment (1 Samuel 7).
Even though this wasn’t God’s desire for them, He nevertheless orchestrated it for their ultimate good. After the disastrous reign of king Saul, God has David ascend to the throne of Israel, who was chosen because he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). In today’s reading, we see all the tribes of Israel pledging their loyalty to David. As king, he would not only act as their ruler, but also as father figure and shepherd to his people, as he takes care of them and serves as the example for them to follow.
God then makes an incredible promise to David: That his dynasty would reign over Israel forever. This promise was totally unconditional, and even if David’s descendants proved to be unfaithful, God would not renege on His promise. Scripture states:
I will establish his line for ever
and his throne as the days of the heavens.
If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my ordinances,
if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with scourges;
but I will not remove from him my merciful love,
or be false to my faithfulness.
I will not violate my covenant,
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
His line shall endure for ever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
Like the moon it shall be established for ever;
it shall stand firm while the skies endure. (Psalm 89:29–37)
The ultimate fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to David comes in Christ, who reigns on the throne of David in perpetuity. His Kingdom extends not only over Israel, but the whole world (Revelation 11:15). We commemorate this in the feast of Christ the King, as we confess Christ’s kingship over the world, and seek to make that manifest over all areas of our lives.
November 13, 2022 - The Coming Day - Luis Dizon
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Malachi is listed as the last book in the Christian Old Testament. Its position is significant for our understanding of redemptive history, because the prophecies contained in – it serve as a bridge linking the Old and New Testaments together. The prophet Malachi lived during the latter part of the Old Testament period, known as the Second Temple Period.
In his book, Malachi prophesies that God would send a messenger who would prepare the way for His coming. This foretells the coming of John the Baptist. After John, God Himself would come in the person of Jesus Christ (Malachi 3:1-4, cf. Mark 1:1-4). In the last chapter of Malachi (4:1-6), we see a prophecy of a coming day where God will exact judgment. The wicked will be consumed in fire. The righteous, however, will be vindicated. The sun of righteousness would shine upon them, a reference to Christ and His salvation.
This same teaching is given by Jesus in the Gospel reading (Luke 21:5-19). His coming divided those Jews who believed in Him from those who disbelieved. Those who disbelieved were judged, and this judgment came when the Jerusalem temple was destroyed in AD 70. The Church would then go on to spread to the far corners of the earth, to fulfill Jesus’ words: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). This marked the end of the Old Covenant era.
This also points forward to an even greater judgment at the end of the present age. The prophecies regarding the end of the Old Covenant era also point towards Christ’s Parousia (Second Coming). On that day, God will judge not just Israel, but the whole world. We affirm this every Sunday in the Creed: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end.” We recite this every Sunday in order to remind ourselves that we live not for this world, but for the next, and that all our lives should be oriented towards that future.
November 6, 2022 - The Faith of the Maccabees - Luis Dizon
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The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees detail the history of the Maccabean revolt, wherein some faithful Jews struggled against the Seleucid king Antiochus IV (d. 164 B.C.), who forcibly suppressed the Jewish faith and made the Jews adopt Greek customs and religious practices (a process called Hellenization).
2 Maccabees 7 tells the story of a Jewish woman and her seven sons, who were arrested for refusing to accept forced Hellenization. One by one, they were tortured to death, as they would rather die than abandon their faith. And what motivated them to hold onto their faith so ardently? It was the hope of the Resurrection. This is what the fourth son declared as he was near death (v. 14). Later on, we read that their mother exhorted her sons to remember that God will bring them life again, hence why they should not fear death:
The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and said to them, “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.” (2 Maccabees 7:20-23)
This belief in the Resurrection is re-affirmed by Jesus in His disputation with the Sadducees in our Gospel reading (Luke 20:27-38). The belief that we will all be resurrected on the last day is one of the central elements of the Christian faith, without which the entire salvation story of Scripture would make no sense (as St. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15). We affirm this whenever we recite the last line in the Nicene Creed: “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
In an age where the surrounding culture is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian faith, we should look to the example of the Maccabean martyrs, who were motivated by their faith in the Resurrection to sacrifice everything for God. If death did not deter them from unwavering faithfulness, then how much more should we be willing to put up with whatever the world inflicts on us for the sake of our future hope?
October 30, 2022 - Kindness and Repentance - Luis Dizon
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In this passage, we are taught that the world and everything in it depends on the goodness of God. The whole world is nothing before the infinite God, yet He has deigned to show His mercy towards it. Scripture teaches us that all good things come from the Father above (James 1:17), and He is kind even to the ungrateful and evil (Luke 6:35)
God’s purpose in showing this kindness is to move sinners to repent (v. 23). St. Paul echoes this teaching when he says that God’s kindness is meant to move us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He also does this to show that He loves everyone, even those who hate Him (v. 24).
This kindness manifests itself through His preservation of the world, which continues to exist only because He wills it to be so (vv. 25-26). This is also manifested in the rain and the sunshine that He bestows on the righteous and the wicked alike (cf. Matthew 5:43-48). The ultimate manifestation of this, of course, is the sending of Jesus to the world. As that famous passage from the Gospel of John goes:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
We especially see how Jesus becomes a source of mercy and salvation in our Gospel reading about Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Despite his sinful past, Zacchaeus is welcomed by Jesus, and this welcome moves Zacchaeus to repent and become righteous. God does the same for us every time He provides us with good things that we don’t deserve. This perfectly exemplifies the closing verse of the reading from Wisdom:
Therefore you correct little by little those who trespass,
and remind and warn them of the things wherein they sin,
that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in you, O Lord.
October 23, 2022 - How to Pray Rightly - Luis Dizon
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The readings for this Sunday all focus on the theme of prayer and entrusting oneself to God. This reading from Sirach, in particular, focuses on the conditions which predispose God to hear one’s prayer. It teaches us that He listens to the prayer of one “whose service is pleasing to the Lord” (v. 16). This points to the truth that the efficacy of our prayers depends upon our righteousness. As St. James says, “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16).
The passage furthermore states that the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds (v. 17). This connects directly to today’s Gospel reading (Luke 18:8-14). Both scriptures teach the importance of recognizing our need for God’s grace. It is not enough to act righteously. We must also resist the temptation to take pride in our righteous acts, and thus put down others.
Finally, we learn that God is especially disposed towards the prayers of the poor, the oppressed, the orphan and the widow. Psalm 69:33 states, “the LORD hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.” This teaches us that we should likewise be concerned with the plight of the less fortunate, lest we find ourselves at enmity with God.
Overall, the passage is an encouragement for us to pray unceasingly and entrust ourselves to God. We will face many challenges in life, but as long as we continue to serve God and bring our challenges to Him in prayer, we will succeed.
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
October 16, 2022 - The Battle is the Lord’s - Luis Dizon
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The Amalekites show up may times in the Old Testament as Israel’s long-time enemies. This story is the first of many encounters between the two nations. Here, they attack Israel completely unprovoked. After a fierce battle, Israel eventually defeats Amalek, but only because Moses held up his hands until the end of the battle.
The significance of this story is that it demonstrates God’s power at work. Although the army of Heaven is not mentioned in the text, we can they are clearly at work here. In raising his hands, Moses directed them to where they were needed. As bible scholar John Goldingay writes: “Moses again assumes control of the power God had given to him at the Reed Sea and directs the forces of heaven in the battle that follows . . . The way the battle works shows it is not merely a this-worldly one but one where God’s forces are active in ensuring that Israel is not defeated.”
God’s involvement is reinforced in verse 15, which states, “And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner.” The name of the altar (Heb. YHWH Nissi). This provides a hint as to the symbolism behind the raising of Moses’ hands: “The word ‘banner’ (nes) refers to a battle standard, flag or insignia that leads an army into war. Perhaps Moses’ raised arms are symbolic of raising Yahweh, their ‘banner’ of military strength and power. With the banner raised, the army prevails.”
Just as the armies of Heaven were at work back then, they continue to be active in our world today. The New Testament in many places teaches us to take spiritual warfare seriously (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, Ephesians 6:10-20, etc.). Many events that take place around us are evidence of the activity of angels and demons. We should always be mindful of the warfare that is constantly taking place around us, and ask for God’s angels to defend us against the devil and his angels.
 John Goldingay, Exodus and Leviticus for Everyone, Old Testament for Everyone (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2010), 73–74.
 Craig S. Keener and John H. Walton, eds., NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016), 139.
October 9, 2022 - The Faith of Naaman - Luis Dizon
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In 2 Kings 5:1-13, Naaman the Syrian is informed by the prophet Elisha that his leprosy can only be cured by bathing in the Jordan river. Although he initially scoffs at the idea, his servants convince him to heed the word of the prophet. We see in our reading that he does as Elisha tells him, and it results in his healing.
Here, we learn two things: First, that God’s grace is available to everyone. Even in the Old Testament, we see many instances of God’s grace towards non-Israelites. Jesus notes this when he alludes to Naaman’s story in Luke 4:28. This also connects the story to our Gospel reading, where Jesus makes a similar healing for a Samaritan, who is the only one to express thanks for such a healing (Luke 17:11-19). As St. Paul notes, God desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
The second lesson is that although God’s grace is available to everyone, that entails worshipping the one true God alone. The nations are called to abandon their false religions and embrace the worship of Yahweh. We see Naaman respond to this call in verse 17. Although scripture does not explicitly say that Elisha told him to abandon idol worship, we may reasonably infer that he proclaimed to him the superiority of the one true God over idols.
To reinforce this theme, Naaman even asks for forgiveness for assisting in the idolatry of his master. Although he cannot prevent his master from doing so, he recognizes that it is unlawful to be complicit in it:
In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter.” He said to him, “Go in peace.” (2 Kings 5:18-19a)
In keeping with these lessons, we should proclaim God’s grace to everyone regardless of race or social class. But we should also call upon them to abandon false worship and be part of the one true faith. Only those who worship in Spirit and truth can rightfully please God, as Jesus affirms (John 4:23-24).
October 2, 2022 - The Righteous Shall Live By Faith - Luis Dizon
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The prophet Habakkuk lived in the southern kingdom of Judah during the late 7th century B.C. Like Amos, who lived over a century before, Habakkuk is concerned with injustice and lawlessness among God’s people. He also predicted that as punishment for Judah’s sins, God would raise up the Chaldeans against them, who would destroy Jerusalem and take the Judeans into exile.
One major theme that appears in this reading is waiting for God in faith. God promises to dispense justice and rectify all the wrongs that are done. He also promises to remain with the faithful even in the midst of adversity. The important thing is for the faithful to remain faithful and obedient and not waver when all of the external pressures of the world around them tempt them to do what is contrary to God’s word. Habakkuk expresses this faithfulness in the final chapter of the book (Habakkuk 3).
This temptation not only existed back in Old Testament times, but exists even today. Disregard for God’s Law pervade today’s societies just as it did back then. The law and its demands for justice are just as relevant for us today, as well as God’s promise to be faithful to those who remain faithful to Him.
Finally, a word needs to be said about verse 4: Though most translations say “the righteous shall live by faith,” it would be more accurate to translate the Hebrew word ‘emunah’ as “faithfulness,” “trustworthiness,” or “reliability.” The word doesn’t mean mere mental assent, but involves fidelity to all that God has revealed in His Law. One believes, but also expresses that belief through steadfastness to God’s Law. This is reinforced by the parallel line that describes the one who lives by faith as “he whose soul is upright.” This is in contrast to the unfaithful Jews who do whatever they please. And this is the exact same sense in which St. Paul quotes Habakkuk in Romans:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” (Romans 1:16-17)
 David J. A. Clines, ed., The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (Sheffield Academic Press, 2011), 312.
September 25, 2022 - Sinning by Omission - Luis Dizon
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Today’s reading continues last week’s reading from Amos on pursuing justice. Here, the prophet addresses those who are most responsible for injustice in the land–those who have wealth and power and do not use it for good but only for personal gain. They are morally corrupt, and turn a blind eye to the plight of the poor. Amos twice says “woe” to them, indicating that God’s wrath is going to fall upon them for their sins. The reading ends with a declaration that the Lord will chastise them by sending them into exile, which we know took place a few decades after Amos with the fall of Israel (2 Kings 17).
This message reinforces Jesus’ message in the Gospel reading (Luke 16:19-31), which also focuses on God’s punishment on those who neglect the needs of their neighbour. Note that the wealthy men in both Amos and in Luke are accused of a sin of omission–their crime is not that they actively oppressed the poor, but that they neglected them by doing nothing.
This is a reminder that we can sin by not doing the good that we are supposed to do. Scripture states that “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17). We are reminded of this every time we recite the Confiteor: “I confess to almighty God . . . that I have greatly sinned, . . . in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” (emphasis added)
Therefore, we who have the means should be active in charity. We should not ignore the plight of the less fortunate around us, but should seek out ways that we can benefit them. In that way, we can become salt and light to the earth, and thus receive God’s favour, and not His woe.
September 18, 2022 - Pursuing Justice - Luis Dizon
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Amos lived in the northern kingdom of Israel around the 8th century BC. God commissioned him as a prophet to warn Israel of their impending punishment for breaking God’s law. Among their many sins included idolatry, as well as trusting in foreign powers rather than God, and various economic injustices.
Today’s reading focuses on the injustice of Israel’s merchants. They seek to defraud the poor by using dishonest scales to cheat them in their business deals. They also show no regard for the Sabbath, as they wait impatiently for the Sabbath to end so that they may resume business. Most of all, they devour the poor by buying them and enslaving them.
Because of this, God declared that He would destroy Israel. The verses following our reading describe His punishment:
“And on that day,” says the Lord God,
“I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning,
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth upon all loins,
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
and the end of it like a bitter day. (Amos 8:9-10)
We know from history that punishment did come upon Israel: In 720 BC, King Sargon II conquered the remaining territory of the northern kingdom, including its capital Samaria. Thus, Israel was put to an end (cf. 1 Kings 17).
This reading teaches us that God is concerned with justice, fairness, and care for the poor. He gave his Law as a means of ensuring justice among the people of Israel. The principles found in it are still relevant today, as they teach us how to pursue justice, and God still expects us to pursue justice for our neighbour, especially the poor. As He says elsewhere in Amos:
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)
September 11, 2022 - The Mercy of God - Luis Dizon
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Today’s Old Testament and Gospel readings both highlight the mercy of God towards sinners. Scripture repeatedly states that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and desires that none should perish but that all would be saved (Ezekiel 18:23, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).
Later in Exodus, the Lord is described as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness, keeping merciful love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). Even though God’s patience is repeatedly tried by Israel’s constant lapses into idolatry and lawlessness, He is always ready to take them back in upon their repentance. Such patience reminds us that we should never despair of God’s mercy.
This reading also serves to highlight Moses’ role as intercessor. Moses appeals to God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He would multiply their descendants and make them a great nation. Obviously, such a promise could not be fulfilled if the Israelites were dead! Moses shows that he is aware that God is not only merciful, but that He always keeps His promises, so he takes advantage of this fact to intercede for his people. In so doing, Moses foreshadows the intercession of Christ. Just as Moses intercedes for God’s people in the Old Covenant, Christ intercedes for His people in the New (Hebrews 7:25).
God is, of course, aware that all of this would transpire. He is All-Knowing, after all. So when scripture speaks of Him “repenting” or “changing His mind,” He already knew what He would do, but His decision is still in response to our entreaties, which serves to show that God interacts with and responds to human actions, and is not merely sitting in the heavens dispassionately observing us.
September 4, 2022 - Human vs. Divine Wisdom - Luis Dizon
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The OT reading for this Sunday is focused on the theme of divine wisdom versus human wisdom. Here, scripture proclaims that human wisdom is “worthless.” This is because our understanding tends to be marred by our frailty and sinfulness. We think ourselves wiser than we really are, and we allow sinful dispositions to cloud our judgment. We see this everyday when we look at how our society holds values that are the inverse of Christian values.
By contrast, divine wisdom has none of the weakness of human wisdom, because it proceeds from an all-knowing Source. God’s wisdom is revealed through His revelation, and through it, He communicates to us truths that we might otherwise get wrong or not know about. Even though much of what God reveals is often self-evident or empirically verifiable many people are blind or refuse to accept God’s revelation. This is why Wisdom states, “We can hardly guess at what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labor” (v. 16). Likewise, the prophet Isaiah states:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Because divine wisdom is counter to human wisdom, the world tends to not see it as wisdom. St. Paul tells us this when he writes:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:18-20)
However, to someone who is being guided by the Holy Spirit and conformed to divine precepts, we see God’s wisdom for what it really is. To be a Christian is to have “the mind of Christ,” as St. Paul puts it:
The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
August 28, 2022 - Pride and Humility - Luis Dizon
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Both the Old Testament reading and Gospel reading for today are about the importance of humility. At first, it might seem like a no-brainer that we ought to celebrate humility and shun pride, however, this is not so obvious. We naturally seek pride for ourselves or for our in-group. We parade our pride on the streets and seek recognition for that which we are proud of from others. The Psalmist talks about people wearing pride like a necklace (Psalm 73:6). For this reason, the Lord warns us that pride is destructive:
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
than to divide the spoil with the proud (Proverbs 16:18-19)
By contrast, humility is one of the foremost Christian virtues, and has been the subject of many sermons throughout history. The church fathers frequently spoke on the necessity of humility. One classic homily by St. John Chrysostom highlights the necessity of humility as a prerequisite for true virtue:
For humbleness of mind is the foundation of the love of wisdom which pertains to us. Even if you should have built a superstructure of things innumerable; even if almsgiving, even if prayers, even if fastings, even if all virtue; unless this have first been laid as a foundation, all will be built upon it to no purpose and in vain; and it will fall down easily, like that building which had been placed on the sand. For there is no one, no one of our good deeds, which does not need this; there is no one which separate from this will be able to stand. But even if you should mention temperance, even if virginity, even if despising of money, even if anything whatever, all are unclean and accursed and loathsome, humbleness of mind being absent. Everywhere therefore let us take her with us, in words, in deeds, in thoughts, and with this let us build these graces. (Homily Concerning “Lowliness of Mind”)
August 21, 2022 - Gathering the Nations - Luis Dizon
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Near the end of Isaiah, we encounter this prophecy where God declares that He will gather all the nations and declare His glory among them. This declaration is meant to refute any notion of God’s plan being purely nationalistic - i.e., only for the people of Israel. Instead, Israel is the means by which God will pour forth His blessing upon the whole world, just as He promised in Genesis 12:1-3.
We see this promise fulfilled in Christ’s Church. Towards the end of His earthly ministry, Christ gives to His apostles the task of making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). The book of Acts tells us that the early Christians begin among the people of Israel, but gradually spread throughout the world, including the very places mentioned in Isaiah - Tarshish (Spain), Put (Lybia), Lud (Asia Minor), and Javan (Greece). As people from these nations become Christians, bishops and priests are ordained among them to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice to God, which fulfills what verse 21 says about God taking some of them for priests and Levites.
Finally, a word may be said regarding the Jews: The Church has always prayed for the conversion of the Jewish nation to Christ, especially during Good Friday, when the Church prays: “Let us pray also for the Jewish people, to whom the Lord our God spoke first, that he may grant them to advance in love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.” (source). This is because we believe, as St. Paul’s has stated, when “the full number of the Gentiles has come in … all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26). So while Isaiah’s prophecy can be taken to refer to Gentile believers in God, this does not exclude the Old Testament people of God.
When this conversion happens, then the prophecy in Isaiah can truly be said to be fulfilled, since then we can truly say that “they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the LORD” (verse 20).
August 14, 2022 - Suffering for the Faith - Luis Dizon
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Jeremiah was sent by God to inform the people of Judah that their idolatry, disregard for God’s Law, and trust in worldly power rather than God would bring God’s displeasure upon them, and that they would soon feel His judgment for this. The entire book of Jeremiah testifies to this. Here, we see his warnings falling on deaf ears. Worse than that, the princes of Judah decided to inflict a slow, torturous death on him by throwing him into a dried up well. If not for the intervention of Ebed-melech, he would have surely died of thirst there.
Jeremiah’s suffering reflects the suffering of all believers who stand up for God’s truth even when doing so is unpopular among the people at large. Thus, this reading meshes seamlessly with today’s epistle and Gospel readings in preparing Christians to face staunch, sometimes violent, opposition that will come from the world. This is because, as Jesus has pointed out, the people of this world love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).
Perhaps we will not be put to death for our faith, but we will experience loss nonetheless. To proclaim Christ as the only way will mark us out as bigots in a “tolerant” society. To make a stand for Christian morality will cause people to see us as regressive, and may even cost some of us our friends and careers. However, Jesus already told us that this would happen, so it should not surprise us when it does (John 16:1-4).
More importantly, we should not be afraid to suffer, for Jesus teaches that the reward for faithfulness to Him far exceeds whatever losses we may incur now:
Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life. (Luke 18:29-30)
August 7, 2022 - Salvation and Judgment - Luis Dizon
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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
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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
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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 - Luis Dizon
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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 - Luis Dizon
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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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - Luis Dizon
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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 - Luis Dizon
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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 - 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 - 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 – 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 – 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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.