Category Archives: contemplation

His Heart Was Moved With Pity For Them

“His heart was moved with pity for them”
A reflection on Matthew 9:36
Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Matthew 9:35-38

The Greek adjectives used to describe the crowds in Matthew 9:36 are eskylmenoi (skinned alive, flayed, mangled) and errimmenoi (thrown away, cast away).

Christ sought the discarded and disfigured,
For they were like sheep without a shepherd.

The Girl is Not Dead But Sleeping

“The Girl is Not Dead But Sleeping”
A reflection on Matthew 9:23-25
Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

While he was saying these things to them, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land.

Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26

The Call of Matthew

“The Call of Matthew”
A reflection on Matthew 9:9-13
Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Matthew 9:9-13

Faith and Providence

“Faith and Providence”
A reflection on Matthew 9:2
Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.

Matthew 9:1-8

The faith of friends
Heaven’s will bends?

The couplet ends in wonder because theologians themselves debate the workings of divine providence. How can God be both “immutable” (lacking imperfection) and also be moved by the prayers of the faithful? Does prayer change God?

Any attempted solution comes from a “perspective,” which by definition is limited. From the perspective of time, observers mark the changes of being and becoming, and it appears that prayer changes God. 

From the “perspective of eternity” (a contradictory notion), God is “the simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life” (definition of Boethius as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica 1.10.1). Accordingly, God does not change.

Eternity and time, primary and secondary causes, find their convergence in God beyond all concepts and “perspectives,” even beyond the concept of God. 

In Aquinas’ classic solution, prayer fulfills God’s unchangeable will from all eternity (ST 2-2.83.2c). 

St. Thomas realized at the end of his life, however, that all words fail to circumscribe the uncircumscribable: “All that I have written seems like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me” (December 6, 1273 after a mystical experience).

Saints Peter and Paul

“A fisherman and a Pharisee”
Couplet in honor of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.

John 21:1-11

St. Cyril of Alexandria (d.444)

To be a saint doesn’t mean you’re perfect, Pope Francis says in his exhortation “Gaudete et exsultate“, on holiness in today’s world. That’s good to remember when we consider St.Cyril of Alexandria, the 4th century bishop of Alexandria and doctor of the church, whose feast is today, June 26th.

If you read his online biography in Wikipedia–where many today look for information about saints – you’ll find that he was deeply involved in the messy partisan politics of his time, when Christians, Jews and pagans fought and schemed to control the city that was then probably the most important city in the Roman empire. Some called him a “proud Pharaoh;” “ a monster” out to destroy the church, an impulsive, scheming bishop in a riotous city. The Wikipedia biography mainly sees him that way.

He was a saint, other biographies say. Why a saint? Well, Cyril was absorbed in understanding and defending the Incarnation of the Word of God. How did the Word of God come among us? Who was Jesus Christ? Pursuing that mystery defined Cyril during life. It was at the heart of things for him, and the voluminous collection of sermons, letters, commentaries and controversial essays he left bears out that interest.

He thought and wrote extensively about this mystery. The way he came to express it was used at the Council of Ephesus (431) and became the way we also express it in our prayers. Mary was the Mother of God. The One born of her was not simply another human being. Her Son was true God, who would be truly human and eventually die on the Cross. God “so loved the world” that he came among us as Mary’s Son.

What we see as “the totality” of Cyril’s life, his “life’s jouney”, the “overall meaning of his person”, to use the pope’s words, is not his involvement in the violent politics of his day. Yes, that was there. But his abiding quest was to know Jesus Christ.

“‘The Word was made flesh’ [John 1:14], can mean nothing else but that he became flesh and blood like ours; he made our body his own and came forth man from a woman, not casting off his existence as God, or his generation of God the Father, but in taking to himself flesh remaining what he was. 

“This is the correct faith proclaimed everywhere. The holy teachers taught this and so they called the holy Virgin, the Mother of God, not as if the nature of the Word or his divinity began from the holy Virgin, but because that holy body with a rational soul, to which the Word, personally united, was born of her according to the flesh.”

— St. Cyril of Alexandria, First Letter to Nestorius

“When poisonous pride swells up in you, turn to the Eucharist; and that Bread, which is your God humbling and disguising himself, will teach you humility. When the fever of selfish greed rages in you, feed on this Bread; and you will learn generosity. When you feel the itch of intemperance, nourish yourself with the Flesh and Blood of Christ, who practiced heroic self-control during His earthly life, and you will become temperate. When you are lazy and sluggish about spiritual things, strengthen yourself with this heavenly Food; and you will grow fervent. Lastly, when you feel scorched by the fever of impurity, go to the banquet of the Angels; and the spotless Flesh of Christ will make you pure and chaste.”

The Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“And his mother kept all these things in her heart”
A reflection on Luke 2:49-51
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Luke 2:49-51

Note: The word “house” is not in the Greek text. Luke 2:49 can also be translated, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s work/business (things of my Father)?”

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

“Yoked with Jesus”
Matthew 11:29 “in a snailshell”
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Gospel Acclamation
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.

Matthew 11:29