August 27, 2014

The Gospel Today

Memorial of Saint Monica

Matthew 23:27-32

Jesus said,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You build the tombs of the prophets
and adorn the memorials of the righteous,
and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’
Thus you bear witness against yourselves
that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;
now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”

Reflection (Sem. Eric Terrel):

Loss is part of life. It is not always that we experience happiness, victories and accomplishments. There are times when we cannot avoid the pain, the disappointment and sadness due to losing and failing. However, there is no pain and sadness worse than the death of a beloved one. We can easily get over the loss of a thing we own. We might have a greater difficulty dealing with a lost job or a lost opportunity. Nevertheless, everything pales in comparison with a lost family member whom we are strongly connected with.

In the Gospel narrative, we encounter the deep pain and the intense mourning of a widow who lost her only son who has died. Young as he is, he is supposed to be with his mother for a long time. He is expected to outlive her mother and be the one to bury her when she dies. On the contrary, the mother who brought her son into this world would also be the one to bury him. He is everything that she has left. Yet, his death leaves her alone and empty. Nevertheless, the deep sorrow and pain of this woman from Nain becomes a great opportunity for Jesus Christ to reveal Himself not only as a prophet who can raise the dead back into life but as a God who cares for the sorrowful and suffers with those who are mourning. His compassion reveals how great is His heart for those who are in pain and anguish. God is more than willing to embrace our pain and sadness because He is rich in mercy and love. We have a God who can mourn and suffer with us. He invites us to have the courage to open our vulnerabilities, our pains and sorrows to Him. The world teaches us to be strong and stoic in the face of trials. But how can we expect our internal strength to sustain us if we would not allow God to accompany and comfort us?

We also celebrate today the memorial of St. Monica who is similar to the woman of Nain. Through her unceasing prayers, she expressed to God her pains and sorrows for her son, Augustine, whose early life was afflicted by sexual lust and heretical beliefs. Her perseverance in prayer and pursuing her son eventually won God’s favor as Augustine finally converted from his sinful ways. He dedicated the rest of his life in service of God and the Church as he became a priest, a bishop and a passionate defender of the Christian faith. This great turnaround is impossible without the grace of God which first worked in the loving heart of St. Monica who shed a lot of tears but won the soul of her son for God’s greater glory.


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