Catholic Mass Readings and Reflection January 15, 2024


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R/. To one whose way is blameless, I will show the salvation of God.

V/. Alleluia R/. Alleluia

V/. The word of God is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

R/. Alleluia

At that time: John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to Jesus, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

1.      Presumption is a very strong force that often pressures us. Our intelligence, our competence, and our resourcefulness easily make us presumptuous. Consequently, we attach too much importance to our judgment and decisions and cling to them.

2.      This often leads us to bypass the will and the plans of God and to even go against them. This is the presumption that led King Saul to disobey God’s explicit command not to retain anything of the spoil of his victory against the enemies.

3.      But he disobeys the Lord’s voice by not destroying some of the best of the spoil. He defends his disobedient action saying that he preserved them in order to sacrifice to the Lord. This is a clear presumption that the Lord will be pleased with sacrifices and offerings.

4.      It is in this context Samuel makes it crystal clear to Saul that his presumption is wrong. For one cannot please God with mere offerings but only with an obedient heart. When there is no docile heart that obeys God’s will, all the other activities will be in vain. It is the offering of the heart that makes all the other offerings meaningful and pleasing to God.

5.      This was the same sin of presumption that misguided the Pharisees and scribes. They presumed that their mere observance of the laws and spiritual activities would appease God and bring them heaven.

6.      That is why they gave more importance to the rules and practices like fasting while they failed to grow closer to God. They fail to realize that the joy of the presence of the bridegroom is more important than the aloofness of fasting. They fail to realize that all our practices are ultimately meant to deepen our relationship with God.

7.      Offerings and sacrifices without a humble and renewed heart are like the “new patches” on the old cloth and “new wine” into the old wineskins. The external religious practices must go together with an obedient heart and a changed life. What is needed is “new cloth” and “new wineskins” for the new wine of God’s grace.

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