Monday, December 28, 2009

Jeremiah 17:14 Conversion Of Eric Clapton

Jeremiah 17:14 Conversion Of Eric Clapton
Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for thou art my praise.

Conversion of Eric Clapton
Success came to him early and the world of rock-and-roll bathed him in a culture of alcohol, drugs, and irresponsibility. He was soon an addict, with everything in his life other than his music spinning out of control. Eventually grace intervened and, during a second trip to an alcoholic clinic, he found grace and sobriety. Here are his own words:

"Nevertheless, I stumbled through my month in treatment much as I had done the first time, just ticking off the days, hoping that something would change in me without me having to do much about it. Then one day, as my visit was drawing to an end, a panic hit me, and I realized that in fact nothing had changed in me, and that I was going back out into the world again completely unprotected. The noise in my head was deafening, and drinking was in my thoughts all the time. It shocked me to realize that here I was in a treatment center, a supposedly safe environment, and I was in serious danger. I was absolutely terrified, in complete despair.

At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way and I fell to my knees. In the privacy of my room, I begged for help. I had no idea who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with. Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn’t allow it, but I knew that on my own I wasn’t going to make it, so I asked for help, and getting down on my knees, I surrendered.

Within a few days I realized that something had happened for me. An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that's true, but there was much more to it than that. I had found a place to turn to, a place I'd always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in. From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night to express my gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety. I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray and with my ego, this is the most I can do.

If you are asking me why I do all of this, I will tell you ... because it works, as simple as that. In all this time that I have been sober, I have never once seriously thought of taking a drink or a drug. .... In some way, in some form, my God was always there, but now I have learned to talk to him."

"You are never more of a mature adult than when you get down on your knees and bend humbly before something greater than yourself."

Source: (Eric Clapton, The Autobiography, N.Y., Random House, 2007 )
Taken from website

Psalm 23:4 and Mark 5:2-3, 9 My Name Is Legion

Scripture: Psalm 23:4 and Mark 5:2-3, 9 My Name Is Legion

Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Mark 5:2-3, 9
And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain;
And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Legion; for we are many."

News headline - January 16, 2008
A SURVIVOR of a suicide attack on Australia's Embassy in Afghanistan yesterday told of huddling with others in a gym change room as Taliban terrorists roamed the building hunting Westerners.

AS I read the above news headline I am sure I speak for everyone reading this that we can all thank God for our lives and the relative harmony that surrounds us.
This news headline reminded me of an interview I saw.
This incredible true story occurred over a decade ago. The text below has been taken from a review and the book.

The story - Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza - has inspired thousands.
No one can doubt that Immaculée has encountered evil in its most terrifying form and lived to tell about it.

In this graphic case of faith under fire, Immaculée found herself in a give-and-take dialogue with God throughout the genocide, particularly as she discovered the truth about its extent.
Upon finishing the book the common response is you are left with a single question: “Where in my life do I need to forgive people?”

The following is an excerpt from her book as it relates to the above scripture verses.


When we awoke the next day, we took turns stretching our aching muscles. Moving even an inch was a major production because we couldn't talk to one another. We quickly worked out forms of sign language that would become our silent shorthand for the remainder of our stay in the bathroom. We spent three months inside this bathroom. I grimaced at the pain in my cramped legs, thinking I'd have quite a tale of hardship to tell after the war.

It was my turn to stretch when a commotion erupted outside. There were dozens, maybe hundreds, of voices, some yelling, others chanting. We knew immediately that the killers had arrived. "Let us hunt them in the forests, lakes, and hills; let us find them in the church; let us wipe them from the face of the earth!"

I stood on my tiptoes and peeked out the window through a little hole in the curtain. The other ladies grabbed at me, trying to pull me down. Athanasia shook her head wildly, silently mouthing, "Get down! They're looking for us! Get down before they see you!"

I ignored them, knocking their hands away and peering through the hole. I immediately regretted my decision because I was petrified by what I saw.

Hundreds of people surrounded the house, many of whom were dressed like devils, wearing skirts of tree bark and shirts of dried banana leaves, and some even had goat horns strapped to their heads. Despite their demonic costumes, their faces were easily recognizable, and there was murder in their eyes. They whooped and hollered. They jumped about, waving spears, machetes, and knives in the air. They chanted a killing song of genocide while doing a dance of death: "Kill them, kill them, kill them all; kill them big and kill them small! Kill the old and kill the young. . .a baby snake is still a snake, kill it, too, let none escape! Kill them, kill them, kill them all!"

It wasn't the soldiers who were chanting, nor was it the trained militiamen who had been tormenting us for days.
No, these were my neighbours, people I'd grown up and gone to school with--some had even been to our house for dinner.

I recognized dozens of Mataba's most prominent citizens in the mob, all of whom were in a killing frenzy, ranting and screaming for Tutsi blood. The killers leading the group pushed their way into the pastor's house, and suddenly the chanting was coming from all directions. "Find them, find them, kill them all!"

My head was spinning. I fell backward onto the ladies. I couldn't breathe. "Dear God, save us. . ." I whispered, but couldn't remember the words to any of my prayers.

A wave of despair washed over me, and I was overwhelmed by fear.

That's when the devil first whispered in my ear.
Why are you calling on God? Look at all of them out there. . .hundreds of them looking for you. They are legion, and you are one. You can't possibly survive-- you won't survive. They're inside the house and they're moving through the rooms. They're close, almost here. . .they're going to find you, rape you, cut you, kill you!

My heart was pounding. What was this voice? I squeezed my eyes shut as tightly as I could to resist the negative thoughts.
I grasped the red and white rosary my father had given me, and silently prayed with all my might:
God, in the Bible You said that You can do anything for anybody. Well, I am one of those anybodies, and I need You to do something for me now. Please, God, blind the killers' eyes when they reach the pastor's bedroom--don't let them find that bathroom door, and don't let them see us! You saved Daniel in the lions' den, God. You stopped the lions from ripping him apart. . .stop these killers from ripping us apart, God! Save us, like you saved Daniel!

The rosary beads helped me concentrate on the Gospel and kept the words of God alive in my mind.
Even as my body shrivelled, my soul was nourished through my deepening relationship with God.

I prayed more intensely than I ever prayed before, but still the negative energy wracked my spirit. The voice of doubt was in my ear again as surely as if Satan himself were sitting on my shoulder. I literally felt the fear pumping through my veins, and my blood was on fire.
You're going to die, Immaculee! the voice taunted. You compare yourself to Daniel? How conceited you are. . .Daniel was pure of heart and loved by God--he was a prophet, a saint! What are you? You are nothing. . .you deserve suffering and pain. . .you deserve to die!

I clutched my rosary as though it were a lifeline to God. In my mind and heart I cried out to Him for help:
Yes, I am nothing, but You are forgiving. I am human and I am weak, but please, God, give me your forgiveness. Forgive my trespasses. . .and please send these killers away before they find us!

My temples pounded. The dark voice was in my head, filling it with fearful, unspeakable images.
Dead bodies are everywhere. Mothers have seen their babies chopped in half, their fetuses ripped from their wombs. . .and you think you should be spared? Mothers prayed for God to spare their babies and He ignored them--why should He save you when innocent babies are being murdered? You are selfish, and you have no shame. Listen, Immaculee. . .do you hear them? The killers are outside your door--they're here for you.

My head was burning, but I did hear the killers in the hall, screaming, "Kill them! Kill them all!"
No! God is love, I told the voice. He loves me and wouldn't fill me with fear. He will not let me die cowering on a bathroom floor. He will not let me die in shame!

Whenever I found herself overwhelmed with thoughts of hate and revenge, I reflected anew upon Jesus’ sufferings.
If Jesus was dying for everybody, he was dying for even the killers. As the killers continued to stalk her and her friends, she latched on to the recorded words of Jesus before his death on the cross: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

I struggled to form an image of God in my mind, envisioning two pillars of brilliant white light burning brightly in front of me, like two giant legs. I wrapped my arms around the legs, like a frightened child clinging to its mother. I begged God to fill me with His light and strength, to cast out the dark energy from my heart: I'm holding on to your legs, God, and I do not doubt that You can save me. I will not let go of You until You have sent the killers away.

The struggle between and prayers and the evil whispers that I was sure belonged to the devil raged in my mind. I never stopped praying. . .and the whispering never relented.

In the evening, the pastor opened the door and found us all in a sort of trance. . . . The pastor called our names, but not one of us heard him. Finally, he shook us to awaken us from our stupor. I looked up at him, blinking, confused, and completely taken aback when he began laughing at us. "What are you ladies doing? For heaven's sake relax. The killers left seven hours ago.

Gen 4:9-10 Who Is My Brother?

Gen 4:9-10 Who Is My Brother?
Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"
And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.

“Where is Abel, your brother?
This question is addressed not only to the murderers, but to us all.

We lose credibility, as humans and Christians, if, like Cain, we try to talk our way out of our responsibility and act as though we were not our brother’s keeper.

Father Werenfried (1913 – 2003)- Founder of Aid to the Church in Need

Isaiah 66:14 Behold He Comes

Isaiah 66:14 Behold He Comes
“When you see this, your heart will rejoice”.


If you ask most people what December is about, they are likely to say, “Getting ready for Christmas.” But go one step further and ask what this means. They will mention buying presents, preparing for guests, or visiting family for the holidays. If you say, “What about celebrating the mystery of the birth of the Son of God?” they will eye you suspiciously and with a tinge of embarrassment say, “Of course. That too.” It was not always this way. Older people can remember when there was real excitement. As children, we fasted from candy and made little sacrifices for the Christ Child. We saved what little we had to buy presents but also to give something to the poor or to the Church. And we were excited.

We all knew of course that Christ was born long ago, but somehow this remembrance made it seem that He was coming again to us. I recall serving Midnight Mass at the Dominican Sisters’ motherhouse and, looking up on Christmas Eve on the way to the chapel, there was a large bright star. I do not now know whether it was the planet Jupiter or Venus in the clear, cold sky. I literally jumped when I saw it. Jesus was coming to our town. Some call this the magic of Christmas. It’s not magic, of course. Magic is a trick—the appearance of something that actually is not there. Christmas is a mystery: that which is intangible, unseen, is really there. Christ is with us every day whenever we decide to turn to Him.

Lord Jesus, increase our faith. Draw our eyes away from unimportant things and our hearts from what is shallow. Help us to feel the joy of the shepherds or the Magi. Give us a taste of the wonder of Mary and Joseph. Help us to share with those we love and all those we know the truly good news: The Lord comes. Amen.

Source: Behold, He Comes
Meditations on the Incarnation: Daily Readings from Advent to Epiphany -Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

2 John 1:7 The Antichrist

2 John 1:7 The Antichrist
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Elijah: Don Matteo suggested we make a detour to the cathedral at Orvieto.

Billy: What for? There are a dozen cathedrals on the way south, most of them just as impressive. Did he say why you’re supposed to go there?

Elijah: He wants me to see something. But I didn’t have time to find out what it is.

Elijah and Billy reached Orvieto by mid morning and once inside the cathedral it took to a moment to adjust to the darkness of the interior. The interior was beautiful but did not differ notably from the numerous other cathedrals that dotted Italy.

Billy: Well, where’s the big secret?

Elijah: It’s here. Whatever it is, Don Matteo thought it important enough for us to make a detour to find it.

They entered a side chapel. Four monumental frescoes, representing the end of the world, had been painted on the walls in vivid colours, in a style of epic grandeur that must have been innovative at the time of it’s execution.

Elijah: These frescoes are by Luca Signorelli painted in 1499. He was a disciple of the painter Piero della Francesco. Michelangelo admired his work.

Billy: He has made an apocalypse and a jolly unattractive one it is! This mural here is the Damned Cast into Hell. Ugh! I wouldn’t trade my mind for this man’s imagination, not for a million pounds. It’s horrible.

Elijah: Yes, I think that must be what he wanted to teach us. The horror of damnation.

Billy: Looks like all the deadly sins are here. Let’s see, I’m going to try to find drunkenness. Sure enough, there it is, right beside lust. Let me look into the drunkard’s face. I knew it! He looks just like me.

Elijah went over to another mural. His eyes were drawn to the central figure of the image, a figure of Christ. How strange, he thought, to see a representation of the Lord with the figure of satan whispering in His ear, and his arm penetrating His robes. Is that Christ’s hand or the devil’s that emerges from the folds of cloth?

It was not a literal depiction of a scriptural scene, he concluded. But there was something out of character in the way Christ leaned into satan’s embrace and listened with such attention.

He stared at it for a long time. Suddenly, the meaning of the mural became clear. The figure held in the devil’s embrace was not Christ but Antichrist. Don Matteo had wanted Elijah to discover the secret of the mural himself, and in the process, to observe the mechanics of perception.

Elijah: The painting seems to operate on a number of level’s,
On the surface, it tells a dramatic tale, a narrative.
On another level, it is a moral lecture about sin and betrayal.
On still another level, the artist is reaching for the deepest organs of perception in the soul.
The artist wants us to hear a soundless cry, an alarm, a warning.

Billy: That might be stretching it a bit. Were those fifteenth century painters such sophisticated theologians?

Elijah: Some of them were. Life was short, eternity was always just a breath away. Salvation and damnation saturated the normal atmosphere of life. I think the painter’s saying that if we can be so easily deceived by a few strokes of the brush, by art, which by it’s very nature is a medium of illusion, how vulnerable are we to the power of the senses?

Source: Father Elijah - An Apocalypse by Michael D. O'Brien (fiction)

p.s. if you would like to see the painting referred to here – google (using the images search not the web search)
frescoe Orvieto Luca Signorelli
or just click here

and here to see thew whole painting

John 5:17-19 God’s Apprentice

John 5:17-19 God’s Apprentice
But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working still, and I am working." This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.

God's Apprentice
Jesus tells the Jews who question Him that He sees and does the work that God the Father sees and does. Jesus goes on with feeding, healing and forgiving people despite the laws because His Father does likewise.

If we follow our call to be imitators of Christ, then we too are apprentices of God.

We may not be able to physically heal someone, but we can heal their spirits with our words and love. We can feed the hungry and forgive others. And, of course, we can live our faith by staying true to its tenets.

Being God's apprentice has great benefits, too: It leads to eternal life.

Prayer: Lord, show me in what way I can imitate You this day.

Source: Daily Prayer online

Matt 17:13 Babe soon to be nailed to a tree

Matt 17:13 Babe soon to be nailed to a tree
So also, the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands


Looking into the future

Isn’t it strange to know the future of a child? Each time we visit a crib of Bethlehem we can see also at the cross: ‘babe soon to be nailed to a tree’. In a short time the baby born in such poverty and love would be killed by the evil which was not too far away at his birth.

We know little of the future when we watch a new-born baby, but we can presume that every life will have its mixture of joy and sorrow, suffering and pleasure.

The God made human is no different.

We touch the full reality of life in the baby of Mary and in the care of Joseph. We hope for the best for our children, and know that God cares as much for every child as he cared for Jesus, in birth as well as in death. We hope to introduce them to knowledge of Jesus with his message of hope in good times and bad.

Jesus, Lord of life, give us hope.
Jesus, carrier of hope, give us joy.
Jesus, joy of God, make our hearts like yours

A prayer today for parents, our own and parents we care for.

Source: Praying in Advent by Donal Neary SJ



He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" (footnote 1) Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood (footnote 2) has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, (footnote 3) and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. (footnote 4) Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (footnote 5) Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

The Faith of Peter: A Gift and Task - from 365 Days With The Lord, published by St Pauls Publishing

Speaking in behalf of the other disciples, Peter declares the transcendence of Jesus in his faith-confession. His answer differs radically from public opinion: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter has received the revelation of Jesus’ messiahship and become its spokesperson. Jesus recognises the confession and blesses its divine provenance. His words to Peter echo the privilege of the Son: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Mt 11:27)

Jesus then gives Peter a new name and mission. To his old name Simon is added : Peter (Greek Petros, Aramaic Kephas - for “rock”) He will be the rock-foundation of the new assembly of believers, the new people of God gathered by Jesus. By virtue of his confession of Jesus as the Messiah, Peter becomes the rock upon which Jesus builds his Church. He is the first to believe and he won’t be the last. Being first it is fitting that Jesus makes him the first of the building material for his Church: as rock, he insures the Church’s stability.

Aramaic was the language Jesus and the apostles and all the Jews in Palestine spoke. It was the common language of the place. We know that Jesus spoke Aramaic because some of his words are preserved for us in the Gospels. Look at Matthew 27:46, where he says from the cross, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ That isn’t Greek; it’s Aramaic, and it means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

"And what does Kepha mean? It means a rock, the same as petra. (It doesn’t mean a little stone or a pebble. What Jesus said to Simon in Matthew 16:18 was this: ‘You are Kepha, and on this kepha I will build my Church.’

Above excerpts taken from <>

Peter likewise assumes the responsibility of the gatekeeper who opens or closes the gates of the heavenly city. With the keys, he is given the authority “to bind” and “to loose”, that is, to forbid and to permit.

Peter’s tremendous authority and responsibility are grasped by him only after a period of suffering, trials, failures-and recovery. Peter stands solid because Jesus prays for him. He stands firm after the Messiah, whom he confesses, undergoes his passion and death in Jerusalem, much to Peters consternation. Peter becomes a rock after he has experienced in himself the death and resurrection of Christ. He dies to his own weakness, and recovers to strengthen his brothers and sisters.

Additional commentary - from

Two important things were told the apostle. "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). Here Peter was singled out for the authority that provides for the forgiveness of sins and the making of disciplinary rules. Later the apostles as a whole would be given similar power [Matt.18:18], but here Peter received it in a special sense.

Peter alone was promised something else also: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:19). In ancient times, keys were the hallmark of authority. A walled city might have one great gate; and that gate had one great lock, worked by one great key. To be given the key to the city-an honour that exists even today, though its importance is lost-meant to be given free access to and authority over the city. The city to which Peter was given the keys was the heavenly city itself. This symbolism for authority is used elsewhere in the Bible (Is. 22:22, Rev. 1:18).

Jesus is installing Peter as a form of chief steward or prime minister under the King of Kings by giving him the keys to the kingdom. As can be seen in Isaiah 22:22, kings in the Old Testament appointed a chief steward to serve under them in a position of great authority to rule over the inhabitants of the kingdom. Jesus quotes almost verbatum from this passage in Isaiah, and so it is clear what he has in mind. He is raising Peter up as a father figure to the household of faith (Is. 22:21), to lead them and guide the flock (John 21:15-17). This authority of the prime minister under the king was passed on from one man to another down through the ages by the giving of the keys, which were worn on the shoulder as a sign of authority. Likewise, the authority of Peter has been passed down for 2000 years by means of the papacy. -this paragraph taken from

Finally, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" (John 21:15-17). In repentance for his threefold denial, Peter gave a threefold affirmation of love. Then Christ, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), gave Peter the authority he earlier had promised: "Feed my sheep" (John 21:17). This specifically included the other apostles, since Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" (John 21:15), the word "these" referring to the other apostles who were present (John 21:2). Thus was completed the prediction made just before Jesus and his followers went for the last time to the Mount of Olives.

There is ample evidence in the New Testament that Peter was first in authority among the apostles.

• Whenever they were named, Peter headed the list (Matt. 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13); sometimes the apostles were referred to as "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32).
• Peter was the one who generally spoke for the apostles (Matt. 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41, John 6:68-69), and he figured in many of the most dramatic scenes (Matt. 14:28-32, Matt. 17:24-27, Mark 10:23-28).
• On Pentecost it was Peter who first preached to the crowds (Acts 2:14-40), and he worked the first healing in the Church age (Acts 3:6-7).
• It is Peter’s faith that will strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32) and
• Peter is given Christ’s flock to shepherd (John 21:17).
• An angel was sent to announce the resurrection to Peter (Mark 16:7), and
• the risen Christ first appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34).
• He headed the meeting that elected Matthias to replace Judas (Acts 1:13-26), and
• Peter received the first converts (Acts 2:41). He inflicted the first punishment (Acts 5:1-11), and
• Peter excommunicated the first heretic (Acts 8:18-23).
• He led the first council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and announced the first dogmatic decision (Acts 15:7-11).
• It was to Peter that the revelation came that Gentiles were to be baptized and accepted as Christians (Acts 10:46-48).

Why The Name Change
The Jewish listeners would immediately understand the import of Jesus’ words, richly couched in their Jewish heritage. The parallels were drawn between Abraham and Peter: name changes to designate new statuses, the designations of both as “rock”, and both standing at the fountainhead of the two major covenants of God with his people. In each case God began with one person to achieve a much larger goal.
-taken from Is Peter the Rock, or is the Rock only his Confession of Faith?
What do the Bible and the Early Fathers Teach?
Steve Ray’s Response to an Eastern Orthodox Christian <>

The startling thing was that-aside from the single time that Abraham is called a "rock" (Hebrew: Tsur; Aramaic: Kepha) in Isaiah 51:1-2-in the Old Testament only God was called a rock. The word rock was not used as a proper name in the ancient world. If you were to turn to a companion and say, "From now on your name is Asparagus," people would wonder: Why Asparagus? What is the meaning of it? What does it signify? Indeed, why call Simon the fisherman "Rock"? Christ was not given to meaningless gestures, and neither were the Jews as a whole when it came to names. Giving a new name meant that the status of the person was changed, as when Abram’s name was changed to Abraham (Gen.17:5), Jacob’s to Israel (Gen. 32:28), Eliakim’s to Joakim (2 Kgs. 23:34), or the names of the four Hebrew youths-Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 1:6-7). But no Jew had ever been called "Rock." The Jews would give other names taken from nature, such as Barak "lightning," (Judg. 4:6), Deborah ("bee," Gen. 35:8), and Rachel ("ewe," Gen. 29:16), but never "Rock." In the New Testament James and John were nicknamed Boanerges, meaning "Sons of Thunder," by Christ, but that was never regularly used in place of their original names, and it certainly was not given as a new name. But in the case of Simon-bar-Jonah, his new name Kephas (Greek: Petros) definitely replaced the old.
Taken from

1. Can you perceive the presence of God in your heart and mind, in your life and in the lives of people around you, in the midst of the suffering and pain of a loved one?
2. Do you believe Jesus wanted to create a leader for His Church on Earth?

Footnotes - from the New American Bible

1. The Son of the living God: see Matthew 2:15; 3:17. The addition of this exalted title to the Marcan confession eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title Messiah. This, among other things, supports the view proposed by many scholars that Matthew has here combined his source's confession with a post-resurrectional confession of faith in Jesus as Son of the living God that belonged to the appearance of the risen Jesus to Peter; cf 1 Cor 15:5; Luke 24:34.

2. Flesh and blood: a Semitic expression for human beings, especially in their weakness. Has not revealed this . . . but my heavenly Father: that Peter's faith is spoken of as coming not through human means but through a revelation from God is similar to Paul's description of his recognition of who Jesus was; see Gal 1:15-16, ". . . when he [God] . . . was pleased to reveal his Son to me. . . ."

3. You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: the Aramaic word kepa - meaning rock and transliterated into Greek as Kephas is the name by which Peter is called in the Pauline letters (1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:4; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14) except in Gal 2:7-8 ("Peter"). It is translated as Petros ("Peter") in John 1:42. The presumed original Aramaic of Jesus' statement would have been, in English, "You are the Rock (Kepa) and upon this rock (kepa) I will build my church." The Greek text probably means the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun petros, the disciple's new name, and the feminine noun petra (rock) may be due simply to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as the proper name of a male. Although the two words were generally used with slightly different nuances, they were also used interchangeably with the same meaning, "rock." Church: this word (Greek ekklesia) occurs in the gospels only here and in Matthew 18:17 (twice). There are several possibilities for an Aramaic original. Jesus' church means the community that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation. That function of Peter consists in his being witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it: the netherworld (Greek Hades, the abode of the dead) is conceived of as a walled city whose gates will not close in upon the church of Jesus, i.e., it will not be overcome by the power of death.

4. The keys to the kingdom of heaven: the image of the keys is probably drawn from Isaiah 22:15-25 where Eliakim, who succeeds Shebnah as master of the palace, is given "the key of the house of David," which he authoritatively "opens" and "shuts" (Isaiah 22:22). Whatever you bind . . . loosed in heaven: there are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery. Of the several meanings given there to the metaphor, two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication. It is disputed whether the image of the keys and that of binding and loosing are different metaphors meaning the same thing. In any case, the promise of the keys is given to Peter alone. In Matthew 18:18 all the disciples are given the power of binding and loosing, but the context of that verse suggests that there the power of excommunication alone is intended. That the keys are those to the kingdom of heaven and that Peter's exercise of authority in the church on earth will be confirmed in heaven show an intimate connection between, but not an identification of, the church and the kingdom of heaven.

5. Cf Mark 8:30. Matthew makes explicit that the prohibition has to do with speaking of Jesus as the Messiah; see the note on Mark 8:27-30.

Matt 12:38-41 and Matt 16:1-4 : Jonah and Rome

Matt 12:38-41 and Matt 16:1-4 : Jonah and Rome

Matt 12:38-41
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The men of Nin'eveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Matt 16:1-4
And the Pharisees and Sad'ducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, `It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.' And in the morning, `It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah." So he left them and departed.


Jonah was sent up to Assyria and Assyria is going to come down and destroy Israel in 721/722.
So Jonah goes up to Assyria before God uses Assyria to deal with Israel.
That is a critical point for understanding Jonah.

Jonah as a prophet undoubtedly knew Gods plan. The plan was to use Assyria to chastise Israel.

Now Jonah is a patriotic Israelite. He loves his people even though he knows they are sinful.
So when he gets the message from God “Go to Nineveh and preach a message of repentance saying in 40 days you are going to be destroyed.“

How would Jonah as a patriotic Israelite respond to a call from God? “Go preach to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria. The military empire destined to conquer your own people”. You would think he would not be interested in giving them a second chance. If God is going to destroy them why do I need to preach?

Jonah knows if they survive God will use Assyria - Nineveh to chastise and destroy my people. So what does he do?
He is not a cowardly prophet. He is a patriot! He hops on the next ship to Tarshish moving in the opposite direction from Nineveh.

Here comes the storm and the sailors are wondering why, Jonah tells them and so they throw Jonah overboard. The great fish swallows him, it doesn’t say a whale by the way. A lot of people have trouble understanding or appreciating the message of Jonah because they wonder how can a man live in the belly of a great fish for three days. Some defenders of the faith point out that people in fact have survived inside a large fish for two or three days.

I think people miss the point because in Matthew 16 Jesus speaks of the sign of Jonah. What is the sign of Jonah?
The sign of Jonah is being in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights like the Son of Man will be in the earth for three days and three nights. But I think there is something more to it than that. I think that in fact there is a lot more to it than that.

How would Jesus have understood His own usage of the sign of Jonah when speaking to His own contemporaries?

When you go back to Jonah you realise of course he wasn’t really a cowardly prophet, he was a patriotic prophet who is willing to lay down his own life for his countrymen because in effect by fleeing in the opposite direction and not going to Nineveh, Assyria but heading for Tarshish, he was in effect saying throw me overboard. I would rather die than go to Nineveh and preach a message of repentance which will have the effect of causing the Assyrians to repent so God doesn’t have to destroy then in 40 days. Instead He will be able to use them to chastise, to uproot, to destroy my own fellow Israelite countrymen.

He is prophet who is willing to lay down his life. So when he is thrown overboard he is swallowed by the great fish.
I don’t think we have to solve the problem of how could he have survived in the fish for so long.
How could the fish have gotten indigestion and coughed him up there in Nineveh which isn’t really close to any ocean.

I think what happens is more miraculous and I think the Book of Jonah suggests as much.

This is my own interpretative opinion but when you read Jonah’s prayer prayed from the belly of the fish in Jonah 2, he doesn’t speak about the belly of the fish in verse 2 he says ‘out the belly of Sheol I cried’. That is the underworld, the netherworld. He goes on to talk about in verse 6 how he prayed to the Lord to bring up my life from the pit. In other words, there are some suggestions here that what Jonah experiences are not just the indigestion of a big fish but a sort of death.

Then coming up out after three days wouldn’t just be indigestion it would be a kind of resurrection or a resuscitation. So when he comes out again he finds himself there in Nineveh and finally and somewhat reluctantly he begins to preach the message and it has its full effect. The king of Nineveh hears it, rises up takes off his robe covers himself with sackcloth and ashes and proclaims three days of repentance and fasting. It has its effect because Gods wrath is averted, the decree of destruction is lifted and Jonah responds –how? What is baffling for many people is Jonah chapter 4. ‘It displeased Jonah exceedingly. He was angry.’

Well why would he be angry if they repented?
Now we understand because Jonah knows their repentance means their survival and their survival points to the usefulness by God in chastising Israel.

And he prayed to the Lord and he said “I pray thee Lord, is this not what I said when I was in my country” That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish for I knew that you were a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger.” In other words, I knew you were going to do this.

I was afraid your mercy might extend beyond the Jews and Israel.
Even to the Assyrians who were in a sense the most terrible people of the day.
They knew shock tactics in destroying people. Decimating populations.

Jonah had every reason humanly speaking to make Nineveh the last spot on his prophetic itinerary and he says to the Lord “I knew you’d do this and you did it” and now they are spared.

And within 40 years Nineveh turns on Israel, Jonahs own country and destroys it utterly.
So what do we have? A perfect sign of Jonah for Jesus!
Because Jesus does in effect what Jonah did.

That is, Jesus preaches a gospel not just to his countrymen who he wants to spare.
He lays his life down for his countrymen but he also goes and proclaims the Gospel to the gentiles.
And so the wicked Romans hear it, they repent so that God spares them even in spite of their wickedness and 40 years after Jesus death and resurrection, Rome is used by God in a way that is remarkably similar to how God used Nineveh and Assyria to bring covenant judgement and punishment upon the Jews in 70 AD with the destruction of the Temple.

That is so significant. I believe we need to understand it much better.

Source: Scott Hahn - “Our Fathers Plan” Bible Study

Jonah 1:1-4 : Jonah and Jesus

Jonah 1:1-4 : Jonah and Jesus
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amit'tai, saying, "Arise, go to Nin'eveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.


That's why I am excited to share with you the latest Bible study on the Book of Jonah, which I've just finished teaching in my home on Sunday evenings. When I first announced that our next Bible study would be on Jonah, someone responded : 'But Scott, we already know about Jonah, he's the cowardly prophet that got swallowed by a whale. Right?' Not exactly.

For one thing, Jonah wasn't a coward, but a patriot. For another, nowhere is the "great fish" identified as a whale. In fact, a few other misconceptions were corrected as well. As a result, all of us came to a much deeper appreciation of Jonah, who probably is , after all, the best-known -- but least understood -- of all the Old Testament Prophets! " In this series, "we discover how this famous prophet only uttered one single prophecy, covering just one verse -- and it never even came true! Why not?

Well, hold on to your Bibles and get out your highlighters and notebooks because I am going to show you how the Book of Jonah is not just a parable with elements of satire, and it's not just an allegory. It's also "prophetic history," as demonstrated by several converging strands of evidence: from the OT historical books and the words of Jesus, through the writings of the rabbis and the Church Fathers. And like the prophets before him like Hosea, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, Jonah prophesied through his actions as well as his words. The elements of the Jonah story--the fish, the plant that dies, the worm the east wind--are a prophecy "acted out."

In this series we'll look at why Jonah ran away when God sent him to Nineveh. Was he afraid of the cruelty of the Assyrians? Was Jonah a coward, afraid of Nineveh which was the capital of a brutal nation known for its terrorist tactics? Or did Jonah know through the words of other prophets that Assyria was destined to destroy Israel and therefore, being a patriot, didn't want to see them repent, but actually wanted to see them destroyed? But we are only beginning to scratch the surface. We'll look at why God gave Nineveh 40 days to repent and the significance of 40 in Scripture. I will also deal with the questions I know are burning in your mind like, 'Did Jonah actually get swallowed by a fish? Did he survive it, or did he die and then rise? Are there recorded instances of people surviving similar experiences?' I'll answer these questions as well as others you may not have thought to ask. Finally we'll examine the Jonah typology: What is the "sign of Jonah" that Jesus promised to the Pharisees (Mt 12:38-41)? How does the Jonah story parallel passages of Matthew's Gospel? and why did Jesus call Peter the "son of Jonah"? Jonah is not just a big fish story, as you'll learn. Do we have to believe that Jonah was swallowed by a whale--and survived? It's too fantastic. And yet, if we can't believe that, how can we believe that, say, a crucified Son of Man would rise from the dead? I know you will enjoy listening to this series as much as I enjoyed presenting it and I look forward to many more of these Bible studies with you in future series."

Your Brother in Christ,
Scott Hahn

Matt 9:7 God is Near

Matt 9:7 God is Near
As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near”


God is Near

Advent means God is close, God is near, God is on the way. People and places are environments in which we find God. There can be a density of the divine in some holy places and in some holy people, of all nations and all faiths. Christmas is a season of the density and closeness of God. God is on his journey to us in Mary and the son she is carrying. Is our journey too fast, too complicated, too rushed so that we miss God on God’s journey?

We can pass like planes in the night sky, commuters on a bus, people on a traffic island. Something new can happen for each of us each Christmas, because God makes the journey anew in the simplest way we know – a mother and her child. If only we take the time.

May I bring forth the kingdom of justice,
may I bring forth the kingdom of peace,
may I bring forth the kingdom of God.

A prayer today for those who work for peace
Source: Praying in Advent by Donal Neary SJ

Matt 8:11 Not Us and Them

Matt 8:11 Not Us and Them
Many will eat from the east and the west, and will eat with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Inclusiveness with God

The heart of God is big, and the table of God is wide. All are included in the love of God: there are neither insiders nor outsiders. Some religion likes to narrow down who is included and who is excluded. There are people who feel their only place is in the back corner of the church, and feel excluded from the front seats, maybe because of lifestyle, sin or just feeling ashamed of who they are. Religion can encourage an ‘us and them’ mentality. Jesus offers an open door to his house and a chair a t the top of his table to everyone – and an honoured chair to men and women others may look down on. That encourages us to offer and open our hearts to all.

Christ of the welcomes, have mercy on us.
Christ, open to all in love, have compassion for us.
Christ of the compassionate heart, make our hearts like yours.

A prayer today for refuges and asylum seekers.

Source: Praying in Advent by Donal Neary SJ

Advent begins this year on Sunday 3rd December (my next turn is on Monday 25th Dec )
This book my family will be reading for Advent contains a prayer a day.

Extract from Introduction
It is a way of ensuring that the mystery of Christmas doesn’t get lost in the bustle of Christmas preparations, and freshens our way of thinking of Christmas for another year. It ensures also that we don’t cease to be amazed anew at the great event, now and then, in Bethlehem and in our own village, of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

Matt 2: 7-11 - The Three Wise Men

Matthew 2: 7-11 - The Three Wise Men

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.


The Magi came from the East. How did they know about Christ? Probably from the prophecy of Daniel concerning the seventy weeks of years; they counted the revolution of the stars. In any case, they knew, and bought gold because he was king, incense because he was a priest, but also myrrh. That’s the way he was buried, with a hundred pounds of spices and myrrh. What would our mothers have thought if the neighbours bought in embalming fluid when we were born? Everywhere there was the shadow of suffering.

The Cave of Humility
Exiled from the earth, our Lord is born under the earth, for the stable was a cave. He was the first caveman of recorded history, and there he shook the earth to its very foundations. Because he’s born in a cave, all who wish to see him must bend, must stoop, and the stoop is the mark of humility. The proud refuse to stoop. Therefore they miss divinity. Those, however, who are willing to risk bending their egos to go into that cave, find that they are not in a cave at all; but they are in a universe where sits a babe on his mother’s lap, the babe who made the world.

Source: Through the Year with Fulton Sheen

Matt.2:1-12 Lessons From The Magi

Matt.2:1-12 Lessons From The Magi

[1] Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,
[2] "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him."
[3] When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;
[4] and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
[5] They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:
[6] `And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'"
[7] Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared;
[8] and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him."
[9] When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was.
[10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;
[11] and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
[12] And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Lessons we can learn from these verses.

Lesson One
The Magi were considered star gazers.
We can learn from them as we need:
• to look
• to wait
• to watch
• to wonder

Lesson Two
They moved.

They saw a star and moved toward it
• They go
• They move
• They act
• They braved it (the conditions, the distance, the bandits and wild animals)

Once we know what God wants we must act.
The greatest tragedy is to know what to do but then not acting on it.

Lesson Three
The Magi were way laid by Herod

When you respond to God’s call expect opposition.
God’s call should affect our private and public life
When you go public, as you must, expect opposition

How do you face this opposition? With love!

Be a warrior but a happy one

Lesson Four
They meet the Christ child, bow low and present gifts

Our society tells us to lift ourselves up – to be proud – that pride is a tremendous virtue
Humility is the heart of the spiritual life

We give Christ gifts but they are puny and insignificant.
We give a little bit of our mind
We give a little bit of our will
We give a little bit of our time and attention

Bend down before Him and resolve to give Him the best of you.
Give Him the best you can.

Lesson Five
The angel warned them to go back a different way

No one comes to Christ goes back the same route
I refer to Fulton Sheens commentary,

Of course they go back by a different route.
No one ever comes to Christ goes back the same way he came.
The road has changed.

Source: Conversion: Following the Call of Christ
Fr. Robert Barron
- Priest – Professor of Theology – Author

Matt 1:18-24 – The Birth of Christ

Matt 1:18-24 – The Birth of Christ

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God is with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife into his home.

Point of Interest:
Jesus: in first-century Judaism the Hebrew name Joshua (Greek Iesous) meaning "Yahweh helps" was interpreted as "Yahweh saves."
(Source: New American Bible)


Familiar as we are with the Lucan version of the annunciation, we sometimes forget that in Matthew, it is to Joseph that the mystery of the Messiah is revealed. The angel says further that Mary’s conception of the child fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah (Is 7:14). While “Emmanuel” is not the real name of the child, the significance of the name is very important. In Jesus, God is with us, not only in terms of the Old Testament idea that God intervenes in history to save his people, but in the sense of the incarnation: God becomes a man. For the Christians, this is very important because long after the child has grown to be a man and has accomplished his mission, he continues to be Emmanuel. In fact, Matthews Gospel ends with the solemn words of Jesus: “Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world” (28:20)

Source: 365 Days With The Lord.

Matthew 1 - Dawn of the Messiah

Matthew 1:1, 6, 11 The Genealogy of Jesus Christ
[1] The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

[6] and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uri'ah,

[11] and Josi'ah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.


“The Son of David”
While many names are mentioned in the genealogy, David and Solomon stand out together as one of the highest points in this family tree. A first-century Jew reading about “David the king” and his son Solomon certainly would recall the glory days of the kingdom of Israel. These men were the royal heroes of old who brought Israel to its greatest moment in history. In the time of David and Solomon, three important symbols of Israel’s national identity—the land, the king and the temple—shined most brightly.

The Land
The Promised Land was more than a place for God’s people to dwell. It was like a new Eden, the home for the covenant family of God. It was the place where Yahweh would bestow blessings on his people and where he one day would regather the pagan nations to himself. Israel first entered the Promised Land in the days of Joshua but the nation struggled against foreign invaders for several generations. Through David’s military victories, the people of Israel found rest from all their enemies (see 2 Samuel 7:1) and finally were able to dwell securely in the land for the first time in several centuries.

The King
The Davidic kingdom, however, was much more than a political and military entity leading the Israelite people. The kingdom was based on a covenant God made with David’s family, and it had a universal scope. God promised David and his descendants an everlasting dynasty. And the Scriptures foretold that this kingdom would extend to the ends of the earth. In fact, a glimpse of the kingdom’s international influence already can be seen in the time of David and Solomon. At that time foreign nations became servants of Israel, made covenants with Israel and even came to the Israelite king to learn of the wisdom God had given to him (see 2 Samuel 8; 2 Samuel 10:14; 1 Kings 9–10; Psalms 72, 89 and 132).

The Temple
For the ancient Israelites, the temple in Jerusalem was not just a place of worship; it was the center of the universe. The Jews believed that the one true God who created the entire cosmos dwelt in a unique way with the Jewish people in this sacred spot. God’s presence first came to Israel in the form of a cloud in the time of Moses. The glory-cloud of the Lord hovered over the ark of the covenant, which was kept in the portable sanctuary known as the tabernacle or “tent of meeting.” When David became king, he brought the ark to the capital city of Jerusalem.

There he wanted to build a permanent sanctuary—a magnificent temple—to house the ark and God’s presence. David’s son Solomon carried out these plans. He had the ark brought into the innermost chamber of the temple, known as “the Holy of Holies”. When Solomon dedicated the temple, God’s glory-cloud filled the sanctuary, signifying that the God of the universe dwelt in a special way among the Jews in Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 8:1-13). All this—Israel’s land, the Davidic kingdom and God’s presence in the temple—were associated with the two foundational kings mentioned in verse 6, David and Solomon.

The Downfall of Israel
However, the genealogy in Matthew 1 does not stop with David and Solomon. The subsequent verses introduce their many wicked successors, who led the kingdom to its downfall: Rehoboam, Abijah and so forth (see Matthew 1:7-10). The painful memories of these unfaithful Jewish rulers reach their lowest point in verse 11, which says that Josiah was “the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.”

This line represents the most somber note in the genealogy, recalling the tragic events of 586 B.C. Matthew does not mention “the time of deportation to Babylon” simply as a chronological marker. Rather, this verse brings to mind all that the Jews lost when Babylon invaded Jerusalem and carried the people away into exile.

This was the moment when Israel lost the three great symbols of their national identity: the land, the king and the temple.

First, the exile represented the loss of the land. The Jews were driven off the Promised Land and sent to Babylon, where they became slaves among the pagans. In Jesus’ day the oppressive conditions continued, as the Romans controlled the land that once had been the prized possession of God’s people.

Second, the events of 586 B.C. marked the end of the Davidic kingdom. When Babylon invaded Jerusalem, the troops targeted the royal family, capturing the king and his sons. Before plucking out the king’s eyes and carrying him off into exile, the Babylonians gave him one last sight: that of his own sons being slain before him (see 2 Kings 25:6-7). No son of David ruled on the throne in Jerusalem for the next six centuries, up to the time of Christ. Thus the everlasting dynasty appeared to come to an abrupt halt with Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem.

Third, one could argue that the destruction of the temple represented the most devastating blow to the Jewish people. Babylon destroyed the temple, desecrating God’s holy house and carrying away many of the sacred vessels used for liturgical worship. Israel’s most important treasure—the ark of the covenant—was spared when, just before the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah brought it out of the temple and hid it in a mountain (see 2 Maccabees 2:4-8). However, God’s presence left the temple, and the ark was never found again. The Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple in 515 B.C., yet the new house of God was missing its most revered vessel—the ark of the covenant, which carried God’s presence. Although the temple still represented the holiest spot on the face of the earth, the Jews were longing for God’s presence to return to Jerusalem and to be with his people again, as it did in the days before the exile.

All this was lost in 586 B.C.—the land, the king and the temple—and Israel was still suffering the consequences at the time of Jesus’ birth. A Jew reading about “the deportation to Babylon” in verse 11 could not help but bring this to mind. The Jews still did not have control over their land. They still did not have a son of David to rule them. And they still were longing for God’s presence to be with them again in the temple.

Matthew 1:12, 13, 16, 21, 23 - The Return of The King
[12] And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoni'ah was the father of She-al'ti-el, and She-al'ti-el the father of Zerub'babel,
[13] and Zerub'babel the father of Abi'ud, and Abi'ud the father of Eli'akim, and Eli'akim the father of Azor,
16] and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
[21] she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
[23] "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us).


The Hope of Zerubbabel
Nevertheless, God offered the Jewish people hope in the midst of their sufferings. Through the prophets he announced that one day he would send a new royal descendant of David, a new anointed king called “the Messiah” (meaning “anointed one”). This Messiah-King would usher in a new era in which the Jews would regain the land, the kingdom would be restored to its former glory, and God’s presence would return to Israel (see Ezekiel 43:2-5; 44:4).

Matthew’s Gospel calls upon those hopes when it introduces a man named Zerubbabel, who stands as a turning point in the genealogy. As one of the leaders in the rebuilding of Jerusalem in 515 B.C., Zerubbabel represents the last Davidic descendant in Matthew’s genealogy for which there is any public record in the Jewish Scriptures. What happened to the sons of David from this period all the way up to the time of Jesus remained somewhat of a mystery, for the Old Testament offered little genealogical record for the royal line of David after Zerubbabel.

This is what would make verses 13-16 so exciting to the original hearers of Matthew’s Gospel: The royal line has continued for many generations after Zerubbabel! With each new name—Abiud, Eliakim, Azor and so on—Matthew’s genealogy introduces another Davidic descendant previously unknown in the Hebrew Scriptures. The genealogy thus picks up momentum in these verses, building hope that at the end of this family tree we might find that ultimate son of David whom the prophets foretold would return Israel to its former glory.

The Return of the King
Finally the genealogy’s rushing crescendo reaches its peak in verse 16, which resounds with the joyful presentation of “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” Here the royal line culminates with the child who will bring Israel’s history to its ultimate destination.

The significance of this child can be seen in the three titles he receives in this opening chapter of Matthew’s Gospel: Jesus, Christ and Emmanuel.

Perhaps one could see in these three names hope that the three Jewish symbols that were shattered in the exile now would be restored: the land, the king and God’s presence in the temple.

First, in Hebrew the name Jesus itself means “Yahweh saves.” And Matthew highlights that the child is given this name for a specific reason: “for he will save his people from their sins” (1:21). This is significant because, according to the Jewish Scriptures, it was Israel’s sin that led to their losing the Promised Land. Sin led to the exile. Hence, the deepest problem that Israel faced was not exile from the land but exile from God. Matthew 1:21 underscores the fact that this child Jesus has come primarily to save Israel not from the Roman forces occupying their land but from a much deeper form of oppression: “He will save the people from their sins.”

It is also significant that the child’s name, “Jesus,” is a shortened form of the name “Joshua.” This might recall the famous Old Testament Joshua, Moses’ successor who brought the Exodus story to its climax by guiding the people into the Promised Land. Just as the Joshua of old led Israel out of the desert wilderness and into the land, so now Jesus—the new Joshua—will lead the people out of their spiritual exile from God and into the true Promised Land of heaven.

The word Jesus is the Latin form of the Greek Iesous, which in turn is the transliteration of the Hebrew Jeshua, or Joshua, or again Jehoshua, meaning "Jehovah is salvation." (Source:

Second, Jesus is given the royal title “Christ” (1:16). In the New Testament the Greek word christos commonly translated the Hebrew word messiah (“anointed one”). This was the title for the future son of David, whom the prophets said would restore the dynasty and bring to fulfillment the promises about a worldwide, everlasting kingdom. Matthew’s genealogy joyfully proclaims that Jesus is that Messiah-King—the first Davidic Son to reign in over five centuries and the one who would restore the kingdom to Israel.

Finally, perhaps the most profound title given to Jesus comes at the end of Matthew’s opening chapter. In Matthew 1:23 Jesus is called “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” We cannot overestimate how much this title would have meant for the first-century Jewish people. Recall how God’s visible presence had not dwelt in the temple for more than five hundred years. Without a king, without control of their land and especially without the glory of the Lord dwelling among them, the Jews in the first century might have felt somewhat abandoned. After six centuries of foreign oppression, many would have been wondering what had happened to God’s commitment to Israel and all the great promises he had made to their ancestors. They certainly would have been longing for God to be with them again. In the midst of this uncertainty, Matthew announces that the child at the end of this genealogy is “Emmanuel, which means God with us.” In other words, God is with his people again! What is most astonishing, however, is that God is with his people in a way like never before. In ages past, God manifested his presence in the form of a cloud in the temple. Now the God of the universe actually dwells among them in the person of Jesus Christ.

Source: Dawn of the Messiah - The Coming of Christ in Scripture - Dr Edward Sri

Luke 2: 7-12 -The Nativity

Luke 2: 7-12 -The Nativity

And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."


The only-begotten Son of the Father, Almighty God, is born as man, born of the Virgin Mary. He comes not as a mighty King, he chooses neither the capital city of a kingdom nor a palace. He finds no place to stay, not even at the inn. He cannot yet speak. And yet he is the living Word of the Father, the visible proof of his merciful love. God has become a child, no-one can fear him. Poor shepherds are the first people he calls. He is the great joy of the Father for our world.

Father in Heaven, for millions of the homeless, of refugees from war and disaster, there is no room at the inn this night. Many children are born into this world in conditions unworthy of our human dignity. Jesus in his poverty lives in them. Show us how to welcome them into the peace of Bethlehem.

Source: The Rosary booklet from Aid to the Church in Need

Luke 2:7 St Francis and The Nativity

Luke 2:7 St Francis and The Nativity
And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.


Perhaps no story or image is more recognizable to Christians than the Nativity scene of the birth of Jesus.

With the help of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century, it has been portrayed and reenacted ever since.

In its present form the custom of displaying figures depicting the birth of Jesus Christ owes its origin to Saint Francis of Assisi who made the Christmas creche or manger for Christmas eve of 1223.

However, as early as the fourth century representations of the nativity of the Lord were painted as wall decorations depicting not only the infancy narrative accounts of Christ's birth, but also the words of the prophets Isaiah and Habakkuk taken to mean that the Messiah would be born in the midst of animals in a manger. (source EWTN)

It was the year 1223. Saint Francis went to Rome to obtain from Pope Honorius III authorization to celebrate Christmas in a totally new way. Saint Francis chose a forest in the vicinity of the village of Grecio, in the region of Umbria, not too far from Rome, where a good friend of his lived, the noble Giovanni Velita.

About 15 days before Christmas, Saint Francis said to him: “If you want to celebrate the feast of the Divine birth in Grecio make haste to prepare what I indicate to you.
“So that we can properly remember the circumstances in which the Divine Child was born and all the inconveniences he endured as he lay in the manger on straw between an ox and an ass, I would like to re-create this in a palpable way, as if I had seen it with my own eyes.”
Francis, recalling a visit he had made years before to Bethlehem, resolved to create the manger he had seen there. The ideal spot was a cave in nearby Greccio. He would find a baby (we’re not sure if it was a live infant or the carved image of a baby), hay upon which to lay him, an ox and an ass to stand beside the manger. Word went out to the people of the town. At the appointed time they arrived carrying torches and candles.

For Francis, the simple celebration was meant to recall the hardships Jesus suffered even as an infant, a savior who chose to become poor for our sake, a truly human Jesus.

God’s choice to give human beings free will was, from the beginning, a decision to be helpless in human hands.

With the birth of Jesus, God made the divine helplessness very clear to us, for a human infant is totally dependent on the loving response of other people.

Our natural response to a baby is to open our arms, as Francis did, to the infant of Bethlehem and to the God who made us all.


Luke 15:25-32 Mass Attendance

Luke 15:25-32 Mass Attendance

"Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"


The ‘Mass attendance issue’

Many attend Mass only for Christmas and Easter.

We are happy they are there during those times but I think those of us who take our faith a little bit more seriously, thanks be to God, may want to nudge them in the direction to go to Mass a little more frequently. And they would attend Mass twice a year as if nothing is wrong.

One priest friend made this point when he said “I’m surprised at the number of people who get angry at these twice a year attendees.”
They would say:
“They’re taking up our seats.”
“We are the loyal sons, they are the prodigals.”
“You know this son of yours. You throw a feast for him.”

The priest then said: What we need to do is to let them sit up front.
Let them have those places, even if they are culturally coming to mass.

They may hear something there.
They may smell the incense and go ‘you know I have been away for way too long’.

Many have said I went to midnight Mass or the Easter vigil and I was moved again.
There are many people who also have said that they don’t go to church because nobody has invited them.

Source: Christmas Day Special – Catholic Answers Live radio show with Dr Ray Guarendi.

Luke 1:26-32, 38, 48 Love Beyond All Telling

Luke 1:26-32, 38, 48 Love Beyond All Telling

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;


“The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.”
Unquestionably it is my favorite sentence prayed during the season of Advent, and it has provided the inspiration for these reflections. Advent attends to two important figures in salvation history:

Mary and Jesus. Its spirituality centers upon the faith and courage of a young woman who opened wide the doors of her life to the invitation of God, welcomed the Word into her heart, nourished that Word “with love beyond all telling”—and then gave birth to the incarnate Word of God, Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, what Mary bore with love beyond all telling, was in fact divine love beyond all telling.

We can only wonder what Mary experienced as she accepted the invitation of God and agreed to bear God’s son with a love beyond all telling. With a single “yes,” she went from maiden to mother. Such a transition might have been a source of confusion when, having placed her life at God’s disposal, she discovered people gossiping about her and Joseph, her fiancé, considering divorce.

As we journey together this Advent with the Word of God, let us do what Mary has done: offer hospitality in our hearts to the Word, contemplate it amidst our daily comings and goings, and nurture it with love beyond all telling. And then, come Christmas Day, let us go tell it on the mountain that God’s love beyond all telling has taken on flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.

Source: Daily Reflections for Advent 2006
Love Beyond All Telling – by Albert Haase, O.F.M.

Luke 1:39-56 Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Mary Visits Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-56 Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Mary Visits Elizabeth

During those days Mary set out and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord (footnote 1) should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed (footnote 2) that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."
And Mary said: (footnote 3) "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.
For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

The Word Today
"The infant in my womb leaped for joy" - The evangelist's language in describing the visitation scene recalls David's action when the Ark of the Covenant was transferred from Baalah to Jerusalem (2 Sm 6:16; 1 Chr 13:8). David leapt and danced for joy in welcoming the Ark, which was Yahweh's visible presence among his chosen people. Elizabeth manifests the same reaction upon seeing Mary who has come to help her during her pregnancy. Mary, in this sense is the new Ark of the Covenant. She carries in her womb the Lord (vv42-43), and the Lord's presence brings joy and blessing to the house of Zechariah. Even the child in Elizabeth's womb shares in this blessing.
The point of the episode is Christological: Jesus' presence among human beings spells tidings of messianic joy (Lk 2:10). Mary's role is to be an instrument of spreading that special joy to others. The prophet Isaiah may as well have spoken of her when he exclaimed: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings" (Is 52:7)

Like Mary, does your presence bring joy to people you come to visit?
from 365 Days With The Lord, published by St Pauls Publishing

1. The sign given to Mary in confirmation of the angel's announcement to her is the pregnancy of her aged relative Elizabeth. If a woman past the childbearing age could become pregnant, why, the angel implies, should there be doubt about Mary's pregnancy, for nothing will be impossible for God.
2. Even before his birth, Jesus is identified in Luke as the Lord.
3. Blessed are you who believed: Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Luke 1:20). Mary's role as believer in the infancy narrative should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among "those who believed" after the resurrection at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:14).