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Bible Diary 2020

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สถิติเยี่ยมชม (เริ่ม 22-02-2012)

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2020-08-15 19:54


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28th Sunday of the Year
Wisdom 7:7–11; Hebrews 4:12–13; Mark 10:17–27

How to Leave the Rocking Chair
If we walk toward God one step, he’ll run toward us ten steps.

James Kallam tells this amusing story in one of his writings.

Years ago a young door-to-door book salesman was assigned a rural area. One day he came upon a farmer seated in a rocking chair on his front porch. The young man went up to the farmer enthusiastically and said,
“Sir, I have a book here that will tell you how to farm ten times better than you are doing now.”

The farmer didn’t bother to look up. He simply kept on rocking. Finally, after a few minutes, he glanced up at the young salesman and said, “Young man, I don’t need your book. I already know how to farm ten times better than I’m doing now.”

That story is a good illustration of what Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel.

The farmer was capable of farming better, but he lacked the commitment to do so. The rich man was also capable of doing more than just keeping the commandments, but he too lacked the commitment to do so.

Today’s gospel story makes it painfully clear that there is more to Christianity than just keeping the commandments.
Jesus reviewed for the rich man the commandments,
which are the starting point of Christian life. The man said he had kept them all. He hadn’t done one thing in his whole life
to hurt anyone.

Jesus admired him for this. But Jesus also made it clear to the rich man that Christianity is more than just a set of negative commands—like not stealing or not cheating. Christianity is far more positive.

Jesus said to he rich man in effect:

“Granted, you’ve never hurt anyone,
but what have you done to help anyone?
Have you ever used your wealth to feed the hungry,
clothe the naked, or shelter the homeless?”

It was at this point that the rich man saw how sadly he was still lacking in perfection. So Jesus held out to him a challenge, saying in effect:

“If you want to follow me, transform your vision.
Stop viewing goodness negatively—as not hurting anyone—
and start viewing it positively—as helping people. Do this and you will find happiness in this life and in the next one.”

The challenge Jesus held out to the rich man is this:

“How badly do you want eternal life?
How badly do you want to follow me?
Do you want these badly enough to sacrifice your possessions for them?”

The rich man answered,
“Master, I want them—but not that badly.”

And so the rich man rejected Jesus’ invitation. The thought of using his wealth for anything other than himself and his family was too great a sacrifice.

And this brings us to ourselves in this church, right now.

Many of us are like the farmer on the porch. We know how to be a Christian ten times better than we are being one now,
but we lack the commitment to do it.

We are like the rich man in today’s gospel.
We have kept the commandments too, but we haven’t yet been able to reach out as generously as we could to the needy, the naked, and the hungry.

This raises two brief questions. The first is this: What do we do if we find ourselves in the situation just described?

Do we sit on the porch and continue to rock,  
as the farmer did?
Do we lower our head and walk away from Jesus,
as the rich man did?

What do we do?

The gospel suggests the answer to our question.
Right after Jesus tells his disciples that
“it is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,”
 they cry, “Who, then, can be saved?”

Jesus replies, “This is impossible for human beings but not for God.” Mark 10:25–27
In other words, we can do nothing by ourselves, but with God at our side we can do everything.

This brings up the second question:
How do we enlist God’s help?

There’s an old adage that says,
“God helps those who help themselves.”
And there’s another one that says,
“If we walk toward God one step,
he’ll run toward us ten steps.”

The answer to our question lies right here.

The way to seek God’s help is not merely to ask him for it in prayer. We should do this, of course;
but we should also do something more.
We should take the first step and help ourselves.
We should reach out to someone in need, even if it’s only in some small way.

Once we take this first step, God will come running toward us ten steps. He will support us and show us the way from there.
Today’s gospel is an invitation for us to reach out not just to our neighbor but also to Jesus. It’s an invitation to trust Jesus when he says:

“I tell you that those who leave home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and for the gospel, will receive much more in this present age. They will receive a hundred times more houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields . . .
and in the age to come they will receive eternal life.” Mark 10:29–30

Today’s gospel is not an invitation to make a great journey all at once. It’s merely an invitation to take the first step of that journey.

If we take that first step by reaching out to someone in need,
God will come running toward us, take us by the hand,
and walk at our side for the entire journey.

Let’s close with Saint Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity:

“Lord, teach us to be generous.

“Teach us
to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for reward,
except to know that we are doing your will.” (slightly adapted)

Series II
28th Sunday of the Year
Wisdom 7:7–11; Hebrews 4:12–13; Mark 10:17–27

The Choice
“To every person there opens a way: a high way, a middle way,
and a low way.’’

Some years ago Sir Kenneth Clark of England produced
a popular television show called “Civilization.’’
 It was extremely well done, and it made his name a household word throughout the world.

Later Clark published his autobiography in two volumes.
The first volume makes it clear that he is a secular humanist.
But this doesn’t mean that he looks down on religion or is indifferent to it. On the contrary, he says some beautiful things about it.

The second volume, called The Other Half: A Self-portrait,
describes a religious experience Clark had in the church of San Lorenzo in Italy. He writes:

“For a few minutes my whole being was irradiated with a kind of heavenly joy, far more intense than anything
I had ever known before.’’

Clark says the whole thing amazed him,
because he was unworthy of such a beautiful experience.
He couldn’t understand why it was given to him.

As he reflected upon the experience,
Clark was faced with an awkward question:
What should he do about it?

He was not a religious person in the formal sense.
And if he suddenly became one, his family and friends would think that he had gone off the deep end.

And so he chose to do nothing about the experience.
He turned his back on it. Commenting on his decision,
Clark writes:

“I think I was right:
I was too deeply imbedded in the world to change course.
But that I had ‘felt the finger of God’ I am quite sure and, although the memory of this experience has faded,
it still helps me to understand the joys of the saints.’’

That story of Sir Kenneth Clark bears a striking resemblance to the story of the rich man in today’s gospel.

Like the rich man,
Sir Kenneth was a good person all of his life.

Like the rich man, one day he found himself attracted to God
in a powerful, unexpected way.

Like the rich man,
Clark had an experience that left him with a difficult decision:
What should he do about it?

Like the rich man,
he thought about the price that he would have to pay if he chose to respond to the special grace.

And like the rich man,
Clark ended up saying no to the grace.
He turned his back on it.

The response of the rich man and the response of Sir Kenneth Clark remind us of Jesus’ parable of the sower.
Specifically, it reminds us of the seed that fell on the footpath.

Jesus explained that the seed on the path stood for people who receive the Word of God but the devil steals it away before it takes root in their lives. (Mark 4:15)

The two stories also remind us of something Saint Augustine once said. He had the same kind of experience that the two men in the stories had. The only difference is that he said yes to it. He wrote:

The two stories also remind us of something Saint Augustine once said. He had the same kind of experience that the two men in the stories had. The only difference is that he said yes to it. He wrote:

The two stories hit close to home for all of us.
They are stories we can relate to.
They are stories about people who wrestled with priorities, just as we do.

Sir Kenneth Clark’s priority seems to have been a combination of what his family and friends would think of him and of his own commitment to the world.

And this priority took precedence over what seems to have been a clear call from Christ to come and follow him.

the priority of the man in the Gospel was to the treasures and values of this world. It took precedence over Jesus’ invitation
to follow him more closely.

Both men chose the fleeting pleasures of this world to the eternal treasures of the next world.

This brings us to ourselves. Where does our priority lie?
Do the pleasures of this world hold a higher priority in our life than do the treasures of the next world?

And if they do, how can we change this situation?
How can we keep from ending up the way the two men in the stories did?

The answer to that important question lies in today’s first and second readings. The first reading says:

“I prayed, and prudence was given me;
I pleaded, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.’’

And so the first thing we can do is to pray and plead for the prudence and the wisdom to see the folly of choosing the fleeting pleasures of this world over the treasures of the next world.

The second reading concludes by warning us that we shall someday have to render an account of our lives to God.

And so the second thing we can do is to meditate on the fact
that God will hold us accountable for the decision we make.

We can meditate on the fact that when we die and appear before God, God will hold us answerable for our actions and our decisions.

In other words, the same choice that faced the two men in the stories faces us now. Like them, we must make a decision.
And the decision we make will determine not only our happiness in this life but also our happiness in the life to come.

Let’s close with a familiar poem. It’s one we have heard before. But it’s one that we need to hear again and again.
For it sums up the choice that each person created by God must make. The poem goes something like this:

To every person there opens a way:
a high way, a middle way, and a low way.

And the high soul takes the high way;
and the low soul takes the low way;
and in between on the misty flats,
the rest drift to and fro.

But to every person there opens a way: a high way,
 a middle way, and a low way. And every person decides the way his soul shall go. John Oxenham (paraphrased)

Series III
28th Sunday of the Year
Wisdom 7:7–11, Hebrews 4:12–13, Mark 10:17–30

God’s incredible twofold gift that leads to eternal life.

Aman asked Jesus this important question,
“What must I do to attain eternal life?” Mark 10:17

One day, Jaroldeen Edwards was accompanying her daughter on a drive up a mountain. Near the top,
her daughter turned off the main road onto a twisting road.

A few minutes later, Jaroldeen saw something that took her breath away.

As far as the eye could see,
there stretched a garden of lovely flowers: yellow daffodils, purple hyacinths, and coral-colored tulips.
Birds and butterflies flitted everywhere.

Jaroldeen could hardly speak!
When she recovered, she asked,
“Who created this mountain garden?”

A sign next to a tiny house nearby anticipated the question.
It read:

This mountain garden is the work of one woman who planted it
one flower at a time, starting in 1958.

After reading the sign Jaroldeen said to her daughter:

“One woman changed this mountain world one flower at a time.
She began forty years ago, probably with just a glimmer of a vision. But she kept at it. Imagine what I could accomplish if
 I had a vision and worked at it just a little bit every day,
as she did?”

Her daughter smiled, and said:
“Start tomorrow, Mother! Better yet, start today.”
Retold from Jaroldeen Edwards, Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner

That inspiring story gives us an insight into how God calls us to work to transform our world—both physically and spiritually.

Each of us, regardless of who we are, is called to play some role in this process of transformation. Recall these words of Cardinal Newman:

God has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another.

I have my mission—
I may never know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next. . . .

[Therefore] if I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him.
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. . . .
God does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about.

To help us carry out our mission or role,
God has given each of us a set of unique talents.
To some these talents are high profile;
to others they are low profile.
To help all of us—whether our talents be high profile or low profile—God has given us two great gifts: sanctifying grace and actual grace.

John Newton, the 18th-century slave trader, refers to both of these great gifts—sanctifying grace and actual grace—in his beautiful hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Recall how one night a great storm threatened his ship and its cargo of slaves.
He promised God that if they survived,
He would quit the slave trade.

The ship and cargo survived, and he quit.

He not only quit; he became a minister and a composer of hymns. One of his hymns was “Amazing Grace.” He wrote:

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear . . .
how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed! . . .
’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
The words “how precious did that grace appear the hour
I first believed” refers to sanctifying grace, which gives us a share in God’s own divine life.

The words “ ’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home” refer to actual grace,
which is given us, especially, in times of special need.

Let’s take a brief closer look at each gift.

Sanctifying grace is given to us in Baptism and makes us
sharers in God’s own divine life. It also gives us the responsibility and privilege of participating in God’s work of salvation.

Concretely, what do we mean by God’s work of salvation?

We mean the transformation of our world—physically and spiritually—into what God intended it to be before sin nearly destroyed it.

It means to work at it faithfully—one day at a time—the way the woman in the story did.

It means to do whatever job we have to do—for example, raise a family—in a way in keeping with the teachings of Jesus.

It means to do that job as faithfully and as best we can in our situation.

That brings us to actual grace and how it helps us carry out our role or mission in God’s plan of salvation.

Actual grace is God’s gift to us in times of special need,
for example,
in times of trial and temptation.

Or to put it in another way,
it is God’s gift to help us live out our mission in this world
in such a way as to attain eternal life in the next world.

All this sheds light on today’s Gospel in two important ways.

First, God does not force us to accept his plan for our world and for ourselves. God gives us the freedom to accept or to reject it—just as he gave the rich man in today’s Gospel this awesome freedom.

Second, we all know from experience how difficult it is to live our lives, day in and day out, in full harmony with the teachings of Jesus. As Peter observes in today’s Gospel,
it is downright hard, if not impossible.

And that is where grace comes in, especially actual grace.
Actual grace is God’s amazing gift that helps us not only to live by the teachings of Jesus but also to share this gift
with others.

This is the good news of today’s Gospel.

This is what we celebrate in this liturgy.

This is the good news we must carry forth from this church
and share by word and example with all those we meet.


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