Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest
“The human race has nothing to boast about to God … If anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.”
Get Thee Behind Me, Satan (Rétire-toi, Satan), by James Tissot
Reading 1 JB 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23
Job spoke out and said:Perish the day on which I was born,
the night when they said, “The child is a boy!”Why did I not perish at birth,
come forth from the womb and expire?
Or why was I not buried away like an untimely birth,
like babes that have never seen the light?
Wherefore did the knees receive me?
or why did I suck at the breasts?
For then I should have lain down and been tranquil;
had I slept, I should then have been at rest
With kings and counselors of the earth
who built where now there are ruins
Or with princes who had gold
and filled their houses with silver.
There the wicked cease from troubling,
there the weary are at rest.
Why is light given to the toilers,
and life to the bitter in spirit?
They wait for death and it comes not;
they search for it rather than for hidden treasures,
Rejoice in it exultingly,
and are glad when they reach the grave:
Those whose path is hidden from them,
and whom God has hemmed in!
Responsorial Psalm PS 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8
O LORD, my God, by day I cry out;
at night I clamor in your presence.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my call for help.
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
For my soul is surfeited with troubles
and my life draws near to the nether world.
I am numbered with those who go down into the pit;
I am a man without strength.
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
My couch is among the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom you remember no longer
and who are cut off from your care.
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
You have plunged me into the bottom of the pit,
into the dark abyss.
Upon me your wrath lies heavy,
and with all your billows you overwhelm me.
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
Alleluia MK 10:45
The Son of Man came to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 9:51-56
When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them,
and they journeyed to another village.
Gospel Reading: Luke 9:51-56
By Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel
Sermon Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church
My brothers and sisters, make no mistake about it. There is no pain like the pain of rejection. There is no pain like the pain of offering your heart in sincerity to someone only to have your heart returned back to you broken and abandoned by the indifference or the disinterest or the disloyalty of the person in whom you have invested your affections. There is no pain like the pain of working hard to prove yourself capable and qualified to do a job only to discover that your capabilities have been surpassed by someone else and your qualifications have not been accepted. Rejection not only hurts. Rejection often harms and hinders us from trusting again, believing again, and sometimes even trying again. Most of us have had to deal with rejection at some time and in some way, but not many of us have dealt with rejection wisely and successfully.
Maybe the reason why our lives and our loves are often stifled and stymied by our fear of rejection is because we have not paid close enough attention to how Jesus Christ himself handled the pain of rejection in his own life. Contrary to what many may believe, the life of Jesus was not just filled with benefits and bountiful blessings because of his faithfulness. The life of Jesus was also colored by ostracism and rejection in spite of his faithfulness. According to Luke chapter 9, the rejection of Jesus comes about precisely because of Jesus’ determination to fulfill his destiny. And somewhere in between our determination and our destiny there awaits the prospect of rejection for all of us. The destiny of Jesus had already been appointed and ordained by God. The crucifixion at Calvary and the resurrection on the third day were already a part of the divine design for Jesus’ life. But in order to reach his divine destination and achieve his divine purpose, Jesus had to utilize his own determination. He had a destiny that was foreordained, but he also had a determination to reach his destiny and to arrive at his destination. Divine destiny does not preclude, prevent, or lessen the need for human determination. God may prepare and ordain a place and a purpose for us, but we still must make the effort, exercise the will, and do the work necessary to accomplish our divine aim and to fulfill our divine destinies.
Jesus would not be dissuaded from his divine purpose. Jesus had been in his home region of Galilee, located in northern Palestine, present-day Israel, when he determined to fulfill his divine destiny in Jerusalem, located in the southern portion of Palestine called Judea. Right in between the Jews who lived in northern Galilee and southern Judea, there was a region called Samaria, populated by people who despised the Jews. The Samaritans were a hybrid group, a mixed race of people that had settled in Palestine while many of the Jews were in exile and had inter-married with the native Canaanites. Adding to the bitter divide between the Jews and the Samaritans was the fact that the Samaritans had formulated their own religion, which was a mixture of Judaism and various other cultic theologies. The antagonism and rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans were so deep that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans-did not like them, did not trust them, would not eat with them, refused to touch anything that a Samaritan had touched. The breach between the Samaritans and the Jews was so acute that the Jews in the north would take a circuitous route east of the Jordan River in order to get to Jerusalem, causing them to travel miles out of their way in their efforts to avoid their rivals in Samaria.
Jesus was in Galilee, but he was determined to get to Jerusalem, and instead of taking the long way around to avoid the Samaritans, Jesus decided to take the direct route straight through Samaria. Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him into a Samaritan village in order to secure lodging and food, probably for an overnight rest stop. However, verse 53 tells us that the Samaritans did not receive him because his face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. They did not receive him because they could see that Jesus was a Jew, and the Samaritans resented the Jews who passed through their territory on their way to Jerusalem. The village people rejected Jesus. Exactly how they rejected Jesus we do not know. Maybe they were rude to Jesus. Maybe they cursed and sneered at Jesus. Maybe they hung placards outside their doors that said, “The Only Good Jew is a Dead Jew.” We do not know just how they insulted Jesus. We do know that they denied him and his company their presence in the village.
When James and John, two of Jesus’ closest disciples, saw the way that Jesus was treated, they became incensed and enraged. These two sons of thunder wanted to strike out against the Samaritans for their blatant disregard and utter disrespect of Jesus. They turned to Jesus in a rage and said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and burn up the village and all the people in it like Elijah did?” They looked at Jesus, expecting Jesus to give the nod to their sanctimonious assessment and let the judgment of God upon the unjust begin. But instead of rebuking those whom the disciples thought were the enemies of Jesus, Jesus turned around and rebuked his own disciples. Jesus said to them; and Jesus is saying to us, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.” The disciples had the right religion, but they were operating with the wrong spirit, and it is always a dangerous thing to try to read and interpret and apply the Word of God with the wrong spirit. James and John attempted to justify their intent to destroy the Samaritans by appealing to what they had found in the Bible. In the first chapter of II Kings, James and John had read the story of how the prophet Elijah had called down fire from heaven to consume those who questioned the authority of God. They based their request to annihilate the Samaritans on the basis of their understanding of the Bible.
Jesus had to correct and to rebuke them, because they made the same mistake back then that many Bible believers make today. They attempted to make an uncritical, superficial, literal application of the Word of God without carefully and prayerfully discerning the Spirit of God. Jesus said to them, “You do not know what spirit you are of.”
o Because the Word of God without the Spirit of God is dangerous and deadly.
o The Word of God without the Spirit of God gave religious sanction to slavery in America for almost one hundred years.
o The Word of God without the Spirit of God has caused women down through the decades to be regarded as mere appendages and properties of men.
o The Word of God without the Spirit of God provides moral justification for those who want to slash spending for vital social services in order to provide unlimited funding for military buildup and righteous retaliation against the supposed enemies of our nation.
o The Word of God without the Spirit of God has enlisted many Christians in a crusade against Muslims.
o The Word of God without the Spirit of God is giving religious sanction to the denial of civil rights of many people based upon their sexual orientation.
We do have, as the children of God, the right Word, but many times we read and interpret the right word with the wrong spirit. We have forgotten that the Bible is not our God; the Bible is our guide to God. The ultimate aim of the Bible is not to provide us with the biblical mandate or a moral justification to destroy one another. The ultimate aim of the Bible is to guide each of us into a loving relationship with God and into loving relationships with one another.
o God is not the contextual law of the Bible; God is love.
o God is not the wrath of Elijah or any of the other prophets. God is love.
o God is not the religious pride of the Israelites. God is love.
o God is not the limited understanding and expressions of any of the biblical writers. God is everlasting, transcendent love.
o God is not just Word. God is Word made flesh.
Jesus said, “I did not come to destroy lives. I came to save lives. I did not come to destroy. I came to deliver. I did not come to take life. I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
There’s more: http://www.malankaraworld.com/library/sermons/Sermons_4th-sunday-after-the-new-sunday-KSamuel.htm
• The Gospel today narrates and tells us how Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem. It also describes the first difficulties which he finds along this road. He presents us the beginning of the long and hard way of the periphery toward the capital city. Jesus leaves Galilee and goes toward Jerusalem. Not all can understand him. Many abandon him, because the demands are enormous. Today, the same thing happens. Along the way of our community there are misunderstandings and abandonment.
• “Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem”. This decision marks the hard and long way of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, from the periphery to the capital city. This journey occupies more than one third part of the Gospel of Luke (Lk 9, 51 to 19, 28). This is a sign that the voyage to Jerusalem was of great importance in the life of Jesus. The long walk is the symbol, at the same time, of the journey that the community is making. They seek to go through a difficult passage from the Jewish world toward the world of the Greek culture. This also symbolized the tension between the New and the Ancient which was closing more and more in itself. It also symbolizes the conversion which each one of us has to carry out, trying to follow Jesus. During the journey, the disciples try to follow Jesus, without returning back; but they do not always succeed. Jesus dedicates much time to instruct those who follow him closely. We have a concrete example of this instruction in today’s Gospel. At the beginning of the journey, Jesus leaves Galilee and takes with him the disciples to the territory of the Samaritans. He tries to form them in order that they may be ready to understand the openness to the New, toward the other, toward what is different.
• Luke 9, 51: Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem. The Greek text says literally: “Now it happened that as the time drew near for him to be taken up, he resolutely turned his face towards Jerusalem”. The expression assumption or being snatched recalls the Prophet Elijah snatched to heaven (2 K 2, 9-11). The expression turned his face recalls the Servant of Yahweh who said: “I have set my face like flint and I know I shall not be put to shame” (Is 50, 7). It also recalls an order which the Prophet Ezekiel received from God: “Turn your face toward Jerusalem!” (Ez 21, 7). In using these expressions Luke suggests that while they were walking toward Jerusalem, the most open opposition of Jesus began against the project of the official ideology of the Temple of Jerusalem. The ideology of the Temple wanted a glorious and nationalistic Messiah. Jesus wants to be a Messiah Servant. During the long journey, this opposition will increase and finally, it will end in the getting hold of Jesus. The snatching of Jesus is his death on the Cross, followed by his Resurrection.
• Luke 9, 52-53: The mission in Samaria failed. During the journey, the horizon of the mission is extended. After the beginning, Jesus goes beyond the frontiers of the territory and of the race. He sends his disciples to go and prepare his arrival in a town of Samaria. But the mission together with the Samaritans fails. Luke says that the Samaritans did not receive Jesus because he was going to Jerusalem. But if the disciples would have said to the Samaritans: “Jesus is going to Jerusalem to criticize the project of the Temple and to demand a greater openness”, Jesus would have been accepted, because the Samaritans were of the same opinion. The failure of the mission is, probably, due to the disciples. They did not understand why Jesus “turned the face toward Jerusalem”. The official propaganda of the glorious and nationalistic Messiah prevented them from perceiving… The disciples did not understand the openness of Jesus and the mission failed!
• Luke 9, 54-55: Jesus does not accept the request of vengeance.James and John do not want to take home the defeat. They do not accept that some one is not in agreement with their ideas. They want to imitate Elijah and use fire to revenge (2 K 1, 10). Jesus rejects the proposal. He does not want the fire. Some Bibles add: “You do not know what spirit is moving you!” This means that the reaction of the disciples was not according to the Spirit of Jesus. When Peter suggests to Jesus not to follow the path of the Messiah Servant, Jesus turns to Peter calling him Satan (Mk 8, 33). Satan is the evil spirit who wants to change the course or route of the mission of Jesus. The Message of Luke for the communities: those who want to hinder the mission among the pagans are moved by the evil spirit!
• In the ten chapters which describe the journey up to Jerusalem (Lk 9, 51 to 19, 28), Luke constantly reminds us that Jesus is on the way toward Jerusalem (Lk 9, 51.53.57; 10, 1.38; 11, 1; 13, 22.33; 14, 25; 17,11; 18, 31; 18, 37; 19, 1.11.28). He rarely says through where Jesus passed. Only at the beginning of the journey (Lk 9, 51), in the middle (Lk 17, 11), and at the end (Lk 18, 35; 19, 1), something is known concerning the place where Jesus was going by. This refers to the communities of Luke and also for all of us. The only thing that is sure is that we have to continue to walk. We cannot stop. But it is not always clear and definite the place where we have to pass by. What is sure, certain, is the objective: Jerusalem.
• Which are the problems which you have to face in your life, because of the decision which you have taken to follow Jesus?
• What can we learn from the pedagogy of Jesus with his disciples who wanted to revenge of the Samaritans?
All the kings of the earth give thanks to you, Yahweh,
when they hear the promises you make;
they sing of Yahweh’s ways,
‘Great is the glory of Yahweh!’ (Ps 138,4-5)
Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Indeed, the works of charity are many. There are many who are in need today. We still have the poor with us and they will always be with us till the end of time. Although in Singapore the poor are much better off compared to the poor in developing countries who suffer abject poverty; without proper food, lighting, water and accommodation, much less a roof over their heads, medical help and education, still, we cannot turn a blind eye to them, especially when some of us are living in mansions, driving big cars and go for luxury holidays. We must be careful that we do not end up being condemned like the rich man who was oblivious of the sufferings of Lazarus who was just outside the door of his house.
Indeed, we must remember that in the first place, the goods of this world are never meant for ourselves. God blessed us with riches, which include health and talents, so that we can use them for the service of God and humanity. We do not have a right to the exclusive use of these as if there is no social responsibility on our part. Doing charity is not an option but an obligation for us all, particularly for those of us who have received much. Many think that charitable works or giving to the poor is something they do out of their own generosity. On the contrary, in failing to help the poor, we fail in our duties, not just as Christians but as human beings.
That is why St Paul wrote, “Take yourselves, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families?” These words of St Paul give us the motivation for the work of mercy. Indeed, when we look at our lives, we are what we are today because of God’s mercy on us. There is nothing for us to boast about except God’s mercy. “The human race has nothing to boast about to God … If anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.” God has blessed us with people who were willing to suffer for us. Our parents and our forefathers sacrificed much for us and the country. No one must ever live as if he has made it on his own. Without the help of many people and the opportunities provided to us by the State and the Church, our family and friends, we would never have been able to afford the lifestyle we enjoy today. That is why we must be thankful and grateful. This is the beginning of the work of mercy. Gratitude is always a human response to God’s mercy. If people lack generosity and compassion, it means that they lack gratitude for what they have. Such people are inward-looking and they can never be truly happy in life.
In reaching out to the poor, let us give special preference to those whom the world counts useless and hopeless. St Paul wrote, “No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.” The greatness of God is revealed when He bestows His mercy on those the world considers useless. When we think of the many truly successful and generous people who are doing well in life today and have become great philanthropists, it was because there was a time in their lives when they were without anything and they had practically no hope in life, but some people came to their help. In the early days, most of our Catholic schools catered to the poor, the orphans and the dropouts. Many of those who went on to become successful in life have in turn contributed much back to society, never forgetting who they were.
We are called to be like the psalmist who praised the just man who is generous and merciful towards the poor: “Riches and wealth are in his house; his justice stands firm forever. His is a light in the darkness for the upright: he is generous, merciful and just. The good man takes pity and lends, he conducts his affairs with honour. The just man will never waiver: he will be remembered for ever. Open-handed, he gives to the poor; his justice stands firm forever. His head will be raised in glory.” We can consider ourselves to be the just man in the bible if we too serve and care for the poor. The real riches and wealth in our house are realized when we give them away. As Jesus in the gospel warns us, ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:19-21)
Jesus is a good example of one who was rich but became poor for our sake. “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Cor 9:8) He went “through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness,” because He knew what it was like to be deprived, to be sick, to be in pain and without hope. “And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus was able to give Himself to the poor only because the Father gave Him the Holy Spirit to work miracles and to proclaim the gospel in both words and deeds.
Jesus did not keep His talents or riches for Himself. In fact, He never worked any miracles for His own needs but He always did so for those who were sick or poor to reveal the mercy and compassion of God. Even when He was hungry in the desert and tempted by the Devil, He refused to use His power to transform stones to bread. In the same way, whatever the Lord has given to us, we must use them for the good of others and not limit their use to ourselves and our loved ones. For those of us who are involved in works of mercy, let us be grateful that we are given this opportunity to be of service to the poor. We must never think that we are better than them. We serve only because we have been blessed by the Lord. For us it must be seen as a privilege, not as a duty only. So even in reaching out to them, let us remain humble, selfless and never serve in a condescending manner. We serve not only with our deeds but with our hearts, with love, gentleness, respect and with a big smile. By so doing, we receive the reward of joy and peace.
Finally, for those of us who engaged in serving the poor, we must never forget to pray. Jesus did not tell us to have a big promotion campaign to get more labourers to help us in the harvest. He tells us to pray. We must pray and contemplate on the face of Christ and His mercy for us. The day we forget to look at His love and mercy for us in the Eucharist or in His passion, we will lose our passion for the poor. Our works of charity will become another project and another chore to be accomplished. It will not be done with a personal touch and with the love of Jesus in our hearts. Only the love of Christ in us will give us the strength and capacity to love like Him, and be gentle, sensitive and patient towards those whom we serve. We must never forget that they are persons, not cases that we deal with, as if they have no feelings. Rather, we regard them as persons and identify them with our Lord who lives in them. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40) The heart and the source of Christian charity is Christ’s love for us and our love for Him.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Tags: Catholic Mass, JB 3:1-3 11-17 20-23, Lk 9:51-56, Lord do you want us to call down fire from heaven, Mk 10:45, Perish the day on which I was born, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 88, rejection, Samaritan village, September 27 2016, the goods of this world are never meant for ourselves, The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, The human race has nothing to boast about to God, They wait for death and it comes not, Those whose path is hidden from them, Vincent de Paul, Why is light given to the toilers and life to the bitter in spirit