Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
Dr.X is one of the TV programs I like. Michiko Daimon says what she wants. Hers lines are great. “I will not help writing papers. I will not be with the heads when they do Doctor’s rounds. I will not do the work anyone can do.”
What would a priest say in that place? “I will not do the work anyone can do.” A priest will not do anything at all a whole day. What are the things only we can do? Four sacraments―confession, communion, penance, anointment of patients—out of them. Orders is only for bishops, baptism and marriage is not only for a priest. Though there are some people who is better than us, the homily at mass is for us.
Let us move on to today’s Gospel. In the Old Testament there were rules on childbirth.
“When a woman has a child, giving birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as during her menstrual period.” On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in a state of blood purity; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled.”
“Till the days of her purification are fulfilled” is 40 days after the birth.
If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a purification offering. The priest shall make atonement for her, and thus she will again be clean.
Those offerings were initially both “a one year old goat” and “a turtledove or a domestic pigeon” However, “when she is poor and cannot afford to a sheep”, offering of pigeons were allowed. What does those offerings stand for?
There were rules of atonement from Exodus 13:11-16. Let me read them.
“When the LORD, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, just as he swore to you and your ancestors, and gives it to you, you will dedicate to the LORD every newborn that opens the womb; and every firstborn male of your animals will belong to the LORD. Every firstborn of a donkey you will ransom with a sheep. If you do not ransom it, you will break its neck. Every human firstborn of your sons you must ransom. And when your son asks you later on, ‘What does this mean?’ you will tell him, ‘With a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, the firstborn of human being and beast alike. That is why I sacrifice to the LORD every male that opens the womb, and why I ransom every firstborn of my sons.”
Those are of greatest importance to remember. “It will be like a sign on your hand and a band on your forehead” just like the shema written in Deuteronomy chapter 6.
The first born must be given to the Lord as a sacrifice. To buy back them from God is the true meaning of atonement. Jesus who sacrificed a dove, then go on to sacrifice himself to buy back us.
The fourth Sunday of Advent
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
Today’s word given to us with the birth of the Lord around the corner is on those given to Mary. Was she pleased? How do you think?
Mary must have been troubled. In “The daily life in the time of Jesus” by Daniel Rops, a French religious history expert, says “Israeli married early. Man was taken to be the best for marriage at the age of 18. Daughters were made marry young. Laws says 12 and half are the best. When virgin Mary give birth to Christ, she must be as little a girl as 14 years old. Even on the work of God, there was hard laws on the way of life in Jewish religious body against having a baby out of marriage—stoning. Daniel Rops says that those are about to marry who was judged not right were to be stoned as married sinners. Mary answered “FIAT”, or I hope your words will come true”. She must have prepared to be murdered.
Sometimes we are troubled by faith against the will. We cannot but complain because of weakness of our heart. Uragaminakanogou-no-Kisuke is a man written in Syusaku Endo’s short novel, “The last man killed for his faith”. He was as big as an elephant but has greater fear than anyone else. He was shocked by a snake. When he was bullied to show his private part, all he could do was to say to let him go again and again. Shinzaburo, his ompany, had fear in his mind that Kisuke will turn his back against Jesus.
In summer in 1867, the officers come around to them and taken hold of them, they were done up with cord together at a place, Kisuke said he gave up his faith again and again to let himself go. But he return to them prisoned in Tsuwano later. Then Kanzaburo said loudly,” if you are in a great pain and not be able to put up with, you can give up. Jesus is pleased only with your coming back.”
There is a stone record called Koshinzuka. It is a stone blue-faced Vajru with three monkeys edged, and his eyes are colored red, having a large snake around it and put his feet on two demons. It takes away a disease in the chest and has an arm to keep himself away from enemies. The Koshinzuka close to watarase-yusuichi have a hat like Mitra on the head and his stick has a cross.
Koshinko meetings gave them times to come together and make request to God and did not give wrong impression. That was why they held it sometimes. What did the Christian who edged this memory had in his mind and what kind of hope he had and requested in the field? Did not he thought about what he would do when he was discovered? What did he think to let his sons and daughters see it?
There was a time when having a faith was also having a risk of life. There was a time to be given life of God was to be taken away life on earth.
But the power of God does not end with troubling men. It put us through the hardships and make us give out a word of happiness at the church. By FIAT Mary risked her life but words of God became his body.
2020-12-06 The second Sunday in Advent
God’s request to turn our hearts round to Him
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
On second religious day of hoping time, the words of John the Baptist’s requests us to get ready for the coming of the savior were read out.
The time of the savior to come is getting near, turn your hearts round and get yourselves baptized. Get yourselves down to the head under the water and make clear your heart and get another way of living.
The accounts of same things in Matthew and Luke say “He will give a baptism to you with Holy Spirit and fire”, and says “He clears the rice breaking place with a plough to every ends, gets together the grain, takes into storehouses, and takes away all the tops by never-ending fire.
In September every year, the workshop second to Seui’s building get noisier. The sounds of getting dried rice broken keep on sounding for a while. A big bottle is taken out and a mountain of broken tops is built.
In the past, when we get the broken rice up with plough, the lighter tops were taken away by the wind and heavy tops do not go and make a mountain, which gets fired, burned, and turn into like coals. It is sent to every place. While I am driving the smoke and smell of them come. It made me sense the coming of fall.
John the Baptist waited for the coming of the Savior, while the Savior who truly came gave up His body as a living substitute making a request of forgiving the sins of all as our go-between. And it was the time of Pentecost when the baptism given by Holy Spirit was made clear. This was the baptism we were given, by which our sins are washed away, we are made God’s children, and we may take in His living.
Today in hoping time of his coming, what is changing our heart for us? This is to turn away from our living of having ourselves at the center to the way of living with Jesus at the center. It is to care others with eyes of Jesus and love one another as Jesus did.
The account of Saitama newspaper on 30th November says, for example, helping hands are not coming to the people in need of foods in the world. Because of the disease broke out, the coming and going of people and things are troubled, and things in their need does not go. About 12,000 people may possibly go to death by the end of this year, they say. A day has 1,440 minutes. By breaking 12,000 by 1440, we get 8.3. About 8 people go while I am talking.
The news on the day before yesterday was on the hard condition of getting a work for a woman. Many of medical care workers, part time workers, as well as people doing businesses are getting their works lost without work loss coverage. The number of them goes up to 25 percent of all and 38.5 percent of women between works have not get jobs by now. As man’s rate is 24 percent, women are in greater trouble. Single mothers would have their children less feed.
A printed paper came to our church the other day. In Saitama diocese, we have an offertory, with getting Jesus at our table on every Fridays in the waiting time in every year. Did you get the information?
We are having hard truths on the earth with the disease between us. What would Jesus do? God is requesting us to get His words and be of His use. If I were given birth in Africa, I would be in need of help and was not able to do anything. But I am a Japanese. I would like to get on to what Jesus hopes me to do.
※2020-11-29 The First Sunday of Advent(A)
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
Keep awake. I sometimes come to myself while I was driving. I was awake the moment before. I did the same on the way to Kazo yesterday. In a moment, I took out and got a bottle of Min-min-daha, or getting-off-a-desire-to-sleep drink, which is 300 yen a bottle but 222 yen a bottle if bought 50 bottles at a time. I frequently fall to sleep while I am attempting to keep awake.
We have been watching over the novel coronavirus almost all through this year since the last February. If we are careless, the number will soon go up. Business hours of drinking places as well as Go-To-Travel and Go-To-Eat government program will be reviewed.
On the night to go through to the goodbye day of a gone, we had three religious song and verses. A believer sang out to the end of the verse between other believers with his mouth uncovered. He may have been taken away into himself off the words by the leader of our division. I asked all the believers to listen to the music and not to sing out. Keeping ourselves awake is truly tough.
The novel coronavirus’ coming out may be a teaching to the man who made out a copied man and have a wrong thought of himself as being a god. We are not able to do anything but seeing this small bug does everything. I say we need to see the sign of the time here.
We are needed to go over what we have to do to get ourselves ready to see Jesus face to face.
Anyway, why on the earth is there the reading on the last day in this time of hoping for the birth of Christ?
Johachim Jeremias, a bible expert, says it was most likely directed to the people who say who have the key to the God’s place. It was directed to the Teachers of the Laws to say not to have the time of the end come, sleeping.
Jewish people were in the long hope of Messiah. But they did not take John the Baptist in them. They did not Jesus either. Their eyes did not see; their ears did not hear.
Our Church gives this reading on this the first day of the time for us to be ready to have us keep awake and keep away from making the same mistake as they did.
2020-11-15 Thirty third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The parable of talents
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
I cannot but have a mixed feeling as a former parish treasurer when I read today’s story. It is about the trade doubling 2 or 5 talents deposits. Compared with the servants working here, the priests entrusted with accounting of Saitama diocese are inferior workers. We cannot multiply but only reduce. You may say it is natural since it is out of our lines, though.
Saitama diocese’s fund is about six hundred million yen or 10 talents. The lord in this story must be a multimillionaire. He says 5 talents or 3 hundred million yen small. If he were God, thousands and millions of talents will be little.
What is this story about? Cleary it is not on making money.
They say a talent equals 6,000 denarion. Suppose a denari, a daily wage, be 10,000 yen, the amount of it is 6,000 yen. They were accused of burying the money and were called lazy servants. In the Gospel according to Luke, a mina is entrusted with each of ten servants. A mina equals 100 denrion. The servant in Luke had the money wrapped up in clothe, so we can say the servant in the Gospel of Matthew kept them safely. Why on the earth were they criticized?
What did Jesus want to say? Who was this parable directed to? The answer is the leaders of the Israel, especially the scribes and the Pharisees. While they were entrusted with the Laws, they set rules in detail, and made people obey the rules which became their heavy burden and they themselves were obsessed with obeying them at the same time. Neither did they talked about the truth of the Laws, nor love to God and their neighbors, much less generosity of God. What God pointed out is negligence in becoming people’s foundation of Grace, which they occupied, and in disseminating God’s teachings. They hid their talents under the earth.
Next, the church of Matthew applied this account to them. They thought it is also for them. This is what we also should do. Besides, we need to reexamine ourselves. “Are we making the most of our talents?” or “Didn’t we dig a hole and bury in it while complaining about using them?”
We have talents, gifts God gave us. He invites us to cooperate with His work with the use of them.
It is not easy to understand what being taken away means. It may possibly mean being taking away the privilege of the hair of the Kingdom of God.
The talents may also suggest the work of love. The theme of the following records of judgement of the peoples is practicing of love of neighbors, or the use of talents. Do you want to be called a useless servant?
Let us think of today’s readings as the voice of God to us each.
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time(A) 2020-11-08
Foolishness of five virgins
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
What do you plan or reflect on after hearing today’s tale?
It makes me feel sorry. We broke apart a plastic greenhouse in our friend’s garden, which we call “a flower garden” and “superb” toilet stood by. As the companion who worked on it was not with us, the field could not get a good care and looks messy. So, we decided to get all of them back to before. The firewood, which we had stored for supply in emergency in the building run out. The plan of building a storehouse for disaster supply in Seui Home parking area came up, but it has not yet been realized. The equipment is overlooked since we are located on the upland with shell mounds and pit dwellings next to us and looks safe also on a hazard map. Do you have something against the natural disasters? Though I am to blame and feel restless, I have not had anything with us right now.
The Gospel according to Matthew unfolds stories sounding apocalypse starting from the prophecy that the temple will fall in chapter 24. What is the point in today’s story? “Keep awake” is also in chapter 24 verse 42. It says the Son of Man comes unexpectedly, then.
The Gospel according to Mark says “It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.”
No one knows the day and the time. Neither does the angels, nor the Son. It is about the time of the Second Coming.
In Mark, the number of the onlookers to wait was only one, while in Luke it was of all the servants present (Luke12:39)
Joachim Jeremias, a bible theologist, believes the phrase “keep awake” was took into the story though the original text did not have.
Why is it not the point?
The reason is virgins, both wise as well as foolish, were asleep. The focus is on their laziness in preparing the oil.
Barkley, a bible expert, informs that in the weddings at Palestine middle-class families, sometimes the bridegrooms come in the middle of the nights to make surprise visits while bride’s attendance are asleep and that the latecomers cannot join the ceremony once the bridegroom arrived and doors closed. They cannot come into for a week the ceremonies last.
This story is for the Jewish people. The virgins absurd are also about them. The history of the Jewish people is on welcoming the Son of God. They could not admit Jesus when He did come. The reason was their laziness.
What about us? Where should we start from? Against the disaster? The Second Coming of Christ? The happy death…?
By the way, “Stand by all the time” is the motto of boy scouts worldwide isn’t it? They are trying to be of help to the next door by having their minds, bodies, and skills ready all the time. They are working on it every week.
29 Sundays a year A year 2020.10.18
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
The chief priests and the elders of the people, who have been exposed to bitter criticism and bruxism, have set up what seems to be the best trap for Jesus. When they came up with this trap, they would have been confident and happy to jump. It was because they thought they would win.
The pros and cons of this tax payment were a trap that was completely set up.
Palestine at that time was under the control of the Roman Empire. While acknowledging the religious freedom of the Jews, the Roman Empire sought to benefit from the territory by collecting taxes. But for Jews, the issue of tax collection was not just a matter of financial pressure, but a matter of religious beliefs. The Jews at the time had the idea that if they believed that “God was king,” they would not be able to recognize the Roman emperor as king, nor would they be allowed to collect taxes.
If you answer that you should pay, you can impeach as an unbelieving person who recognizes the rule of Rome as a god, and if you deny it, you can sue as a rebel against Rome. The confidence can be seen in the fact that this trap was set up together with that of the Herodians who have been repulsing so far. Whichever way you fall, Jesus will be in trouble and will be in your favor. They challenged Jesus with confidence in victory.
However, after seeing their trap, Jesus brings in Roman silver coins for tax payment.
The Denarius silver coin was engraved with the portrait of the Roman emperor. The inscription was “Tiberius Caesar, son of the sacred Augustus”, and the Roman emperor was deified. Since the Israeli religion was so thorough in that it prohibited idolatry, this denarius silver coin was originally not allowed to be brought into the temple, but in reality everyone is forced to use it. It was. Denarius silver coins were widely used and were in everyone’s wallet. Jesus concludes that their contradiction, in which they live with the silver coins and argue whether it is good or bad to pay taxes to the emperor, is a hypocrite.
Christians have dual nationalities. The first is that I have the nationality of the country in which I was born and raised, and I am receiving many benefits. The passport says that those who have it are Japanese and want to be protected. As the history of Jews shows, it is miserable without a nation. Christians must be credible and good citizens of the nation. If you are indifferent to national politics, what if you leave it to selfishness?
God’s thing is to God. Second, the image of God is engraved in us. As a citizen of the kingdom of God who accepted the rule of God, he is required to fulfill his obligations to God. Let’s think about a way of life that is suitable for the image of God. “Look at this person” You can find the answer in Jesus.
2020-10-04 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
How are you, brothers, and sisters? At last, the age limit issued by the bishop was lifted. Starting from today, elderly people are allowed to attend with us together. If you are still worrying about the epidemic, please stay and pray in your home, he says.
Today’s scripture is from the gospel of Mathew. The account is found also in Mark and Luke. Matthew wrote it allegorically. “Allegory” is defined not to be the direct way of expressing things but suggestive way using others.
Jesus’ first audience were the chief priests and the elders of the people. It is thought that because of the birth of the church and replacement of listers with the faithful, they are started to be understood and passed on and on more and more parabolically according to the situation they are placed.
Today’s gospel says that the farmers beaten up, killed, or stoned to kill each one servant. The larger crowd of other servants were dealt with the same way. The researchers believe that they were the prophets in the Old Covenant. Those sent earlier are the prophets before the Captivity, the later, after the Captivity. AS the last son was killed outside the vineyard, therefore, are Jesus’ crucifixion outside castle of Jerusalem. At the root of this story, there lies the prophecy of Isaiah, today’s first reading. The farmers are suggested to be the leaders in Israel if the plants the Lord enjoyed growing are set to be Jewish people. In this events Matthew sees what has been through—the Jewish leaders refused Christ and the salvation come to the foreigners.
This story is said to be a “parable of evil farmers”. The murder of the landowner’s son in order to steal the land sounds too simple. Can it be true? Or is it a myth? How do you think, brothers and sisters? The farmer’s idea that they would get the inheritance if they killed the son is too absurd.
Joachim Jeremias, an expert of the Holy Bible says that this story is an account of Galeliee’s farmers’ attitude toward foreign farm owners and Zealot based on Galilee caused them. (“Iesuno tatoebanashino saihakken” or Jesus’ parables discoverd again p.87).
The north and the north-west coast of Sea of Galilee as well as most part of Galilee mountains belonged to foreign ownership. The tenants did whatever they want to do with the messenger as long as the owners were abroad and were not there. It is also said that the inheritance is supposed to be without owners under some conditions and can be claimed to be their belongings on a first-come-first-served basis.
The researcher thought the reason why the son came was to get the land as the owner died and that if the farmer killed him, the ownership of the vineyard would be suspended temporarily, and come to them as their belongings.
He also says that Jesus was took in as the one and only son to the parable is not as the messiah, the son of God, but simply indicates that the result from the murder the last and decisive message from God be rejected. It sounds too cruel as a story taken form their daily lives. By emphasizing of the evilness of the tenants, they needed to attract the attention from audience.
There is another way of understanding. This story is recorded also in Mark and Luke. In Luke, the servants were sent one by one. First were beaten to death, second, stroke on the head and, third, killed, and the others sent were treated in similar ways. The son, who was supposed to be respected, was killed in the vineyard, and thrown out.
In Luke, the third was wounded. The son sent later was kicked out and killed.
The gospel according to Tomas, known as apocrypha, also recorded this story. The editor from Gnosis do not present the allegorical way, which he usually did in telling this story. “He sent a servant to take the harvest in the vineyard. They caught him and beaten up about to death. The servant managed to return to his home and reported it to the owner. “Probably they did not know who he is”, the owner sent another, whom they beat up again. Finally, the owner sent his own son.
As the account in Mark and Luke is simpler than Matthew, they are thought to be closer than the others to the real word Jesus spoke, the scholar adds.
Then, if allegorical point of view was put aside, what Jesus wanted to say comes to be that “the leader of people”, or a tenant in the vineyard, did not tried to listen to the prophet, and is still rejecting the last message God has brought. This is enough. The vineyard of God, therefore, will be given to “the others”.
Taking other related preachers given by Jesus into consideration, Joachim Jeremias concluded that “the other” is meant to be the poor, because neither Mark nor Luke clearly stated who they are.
“Because of this”, he concludes, “Tax collectors and the prostitutes” who are said to be far from the kingdom of God, in fact, will enter faster. (Matthew 5:5 The sermon on the mountain).
He insists, many of the parables Jesus were spoken to the Pharisees and the scribes who criticize Jesus’ eating with tax collectors or sinners, and stresses that “tax collectors and prostitutes who changed their hearts are truly more worthy for the kingdom of God than the chief priest or the elders of the people who never do. In this way Jesus proved that the Gospel is right.
2020-09-27 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A call from God
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
I became forgetful a lot these days. One day in the last year I got a phone call from Koga church at 7p.m. and unwittingly said to myself, “Oops! I forgot.” I remembered an appointment I made to preside a mass. No less than 45 minutes are needed to move from Seui to Koga. They kindly said for me to stay Seui to avoid risk of an accident on the way in a hurry. I made a promise to do them a favor and did not keep it…I have my heart broken. I take down but forget to see the note. What should I do with it?
Today’s Gospel is taken from The New Interconfessional Translation. I will read out The Japan Bible Society Translation for you. Please compare.
“Now, what do you think? There was once a man who had two sons. He went to the older one and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ ‘I do,’ he answered, but he did not. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. ‘No, sir,’ he answered, but he later changed his mind and went. Which one of the two did what his father wanted?” “The latter one,” they answered. So, Jesus said to them, “I tell you: the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God ahead of you.
Did you find the difference? In this translation, it is the elder who said “I do” but did not. Then the father asked the junior. It is more logical, right? The elder whom the father called means Pharisees and the scribes. As the younger who said “No, I will not” but did was suggested to be tax collectors or prostitutes, so the logic will be right. The difference is said to be owing to the different manuscript.
The collectors and prostitutes are typical sinners in the Jewish society in those days. People thought they are far away from God’s salvation and they themselves did not have the hope either. So the message from John the Baptist brought hopes to them. Because “all the people must repent right now” means “anyone can turn his heart around and come to be saved”.
On the other hand, Pharisees thought of themselves observing the laws. Therefore, they did not believe that the calls from John the Baptist are directed to them.
In this parable, the younger brother said, “I do”. But why did not? He might not understand nor have thought much of the call by the father. Mother Teresa told that the opposite against love is indifference. God talks to us through the words in the Bible. We are needed to have our attention in what is happening in this world and to try to find His calls in it.
20/09/2020 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Denarion, Blessing of Faith
by Rev. Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
In Japan as well, there is a reality that, the knock by the new-type coronavirus being severe, even healthy people wanting to work can not get a job. Many people meet with ‘Haken-giri’(1). It is said that, at the beginning of August, the number of jobless persons reached 2,650 thousand, i.e. the 6% mark (the worst after the war) and, including 5,170 hidden unemployed, 11%. What’s more, this is a worldwide tendency. In the United States, for example, it is said that the unemployment is over 20%. Indeed, Kasukabe Church has been running a ‘Children’s Cafeteria’(2), but it is difficult now to invite children into the room and offer food. Fatherless families, and others, have been so poor because of the mother’s unemploymnt that they can not get foods.
The parable of today’s gospel, Matthew 20:1-16, suggests that every worker has a right to work, and that every worker has a right to get living wages for the work.
The wages paid to the workers in the parable of today are, if we refer to the standards in our society, clearly unreasonable, because hourly wages paid to workers who have done the same work at the same place vary nearly 10%. But Jesus says, “You had better accept your own share and be satisfied, because nothing unfair has been done to you.”
‘1 denarion’ was truly little money just to get daily bread for the family. Without the money all of the family would suffer from hunger all the day.
The laborers spoken of in the parable were hired ‘about 9, 12 or 3 o’clock’. Those who were hired ‘about 5 o’clock’ had been ‘standing there idle all day’. Because ‘nobody had hired them’, they had to be standing there idle in order not to miss a chance to be offered, not to miss a chance to get a job. On the contrary, those who were hired first and protested against the same pay would have wanted to have been hired about 5 oclock, not to have worked from morning if they would get the same pay even in case they were hired later.
What is spoken of here is not the social justice, but the mercy of God. That 1 denarion as the gift of God is a blessing of faith is the important point. What is given by God to the laborer is not wages but a gift, not a reward but a blessing. St Paul mentions, “Now if someone does a piece of work, his wages are not ‘counted’ to be a gift; they are paid as his due. But if someone without any work to his credit simply puts his faith in him who acquits the wrong-doer, then his faith is indeed ‘counted as righteousness’.”(Rom. 4:4-5)
Nobody of us has any qualification to receive a blessing from God. Because nobody can justify oneself. If anyone is justified, it is only by the mercy of God, i.e. by virtue of the fact that Jesus compensated on behalf of us. I hear that there is a Rabbi’s saying “Someones get in the Kingdom of God in an hour, and someones only after the whole life.” Today’s gospel invites all of us to the kingdom of God, and tells that there is no before or after in faith.
(1) A Japanese word for ‘layoffs of temporary employees dispatched to companies by staffing agencies’.
(2) A welfare service initiated in Japan to offer free food to poor children.
※20200913 24th Sunday of the year A year
Limit of forgiveness
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
Today’s theme is about the limits of forgiveness. “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother if he sins against me? Up to seven times?” When I asked Jesus this question, I think Peter was very much looking for compliments. I will.
There is a Japanese saying, “The face of the Buddha is up to three times.” No matter how mild you are, you can’t feel comfortable stroking your face. You should stop … Especially in this era of corona. If you stroke it three times, no matter how mild you are, you will get angry.
The Jewish rabbi language also says as follows. “Rabbi’s Jose Ben Hanina said. You can’t ask your neighbor for forgiveness more than three times,” so Petro would have thought he was a generous person. Forgive me twice as much as the rabbi, and add it once more. But Jesus’ words were to forgive 70 times as much as 7. That is endless. And the rationale is shown by parable. Those who were allowed 10,000 Talanton did not forgive their debt companions for 100 denarinons … Assuming that one denarius is a worker’s daily allowance of 10,000 yen, 10,000 tarantons is 600,000 times the debt of his colleague, which is 600 billion yen. It’s a crappy amount.
This parable shows that we are redeemed by the ridiculous amount of life of the Son of God. It is redeemed … it is bought and owned by Christ. Since it is the property of Christ, all of me belongs to Christ and I am required to act in the sacred heart of Christ.
This is exactly what Paul said in his letter to the Roman church, “We belong to the Lord, whether we live or die.” “We are the servants of the Lord and live in the Sacred Heart of the Lord.” “No one of us lives for ourselves, and no one dies for ourselves. The servant who had his debt canceled should have lived in the heart of the king.
We do not forgive others because we are not aware that we are redeemed by sloppy values. I was redeemed by the life of Christ and became a servant of Christ. Therefore, live with the thoughts of Christ as your own thoughts … Why don’t you meditate on that again?
※2020.09.06 23th Sunday in Ordinary Time(A)
In the face of hard troubles
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
How do you feel about today’s Bible? The birth of the church was after Pentecost. Besides, this is legal matters just like rules inside our church. You may have doubt about what Jesus says on tax collector and foreigners. Jesus, in fact, was called “tax collectors or sinner’s companion”. He even says to the head of the priests or the elders of people “tax collectors and prostitute will enter into the kingdom of God earlier.” Moreover, what increases our doubts is his remark that his forgiveness of sins has a limit. It is impossible for Jesus to say that because he told us to forgive as many as 7 multiplied by 70 times. How should we understand this contradiction? Some theologist believe that when the church needed to introduce some disciplinary measures into the Covenant, they used some language. They say that part is rooted from what Jesus had actually spoken even though they are not accurately recorded.
A decade ago, a conflict occurred between the principal and the staff at an institution in Kanagawa prefecture. Kanagawa prefectural government informed they will cut their subsidy. The amount equals to labor cost of 4 or 5 stuffs. Then, he asked, “Finish preparing activity by the end of business hours from now on. We will not be able to provide overtime payment”. While the staff wanted to him to explain more, he thought they will understand. Because the explanation was not enough, they were still left misunderstanding him and joined labor union. If things are promoted with insufficient explanation, we cannot understand in the right way. I entered between the two to find what caused the trouble. Not to judge one of them but to untie a tangled knot.
When someone sins against you, you need to see and talk. If it fails, go to a third party for help. If it fails, bring the trouble to the church, communion of prayer and love. If it fails, treat them as if he is a gentile or a tax collector. We need to examine carefully here. It might give you the impression that he cannot be forgiven. Jesus cannot say that. According to today’s brochure it means they has not yet belonged to new God’s people. Therefore, we need to try to win his heart with our love in our faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.
This is not a theme I can easily preach as I still feel sorry and criticize myself over a trouble. I confess that there was a faithful who would not answer to my greetings for fourteen years. He was the leader of opposition movement against founding Jiritu-mura, or independence village literally, from its foundation. I cannot say I made an enough effort in the long time that had already passed. I once made a call to express condolence after her husband passed away. One day, she changed her attitude and gave me a greeting back. It can be said the time has settled. I guess it is the same in church. We sometime are bothered with human relationship also here. We need to talk over the issue face to face, resolve our misunderstanding, and solve it as soon as possible.
Here are other essential words, “if two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. Jesus says he cannot be alone, a church will be among us if more than one of us is there. And we say that Jesus, the council will be there with us praying for us and interceding us. For this reason, we can believe even the problems looking difficult will be settled in Him. This is the truth of Christ’s presence as well as the Eucharist and words of the Lord.
※2020.08.23 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time(A)
Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
There is a program A name of a Japanese that NHK has been broadcasting since last year. I think that many people watched this program which traces the origin of names. The name Suzuki, for instance, is derived from a mall which store rice straws or suzuki in Wakayama dialect.
When we read the Bible, Abram came to be called Abraham in the encounter with God, and Jacob was renamed Israel. In the meeting with Jesus, Simon changed his name to Peter, while Saul changed his name to Paul. Perhaps because of these facts, Catholics receive baptismal names when we are baptized. A new name is given in a hope that we will learn from a saint’s faith. In Christian countries, not only in Europe but also in Russia, for example, it is the Saint’s holiday that is celebrated. So are the cases in monastery. We do not celebrate birthday of each of us but celebrate that of the Saints whose name we were given at baptism. The patron saint of Kasukabe Church is Timothy. Do you know his holiday? Simon came to be called Peter, exemplifying the baptismal name that has its own meanings. When is your holiday?
Today’s Bible words are on Peter’s confession of faith. Peter is from Galilee and is also known as Simon, Kefa, and Simeon. Simeon, in its original Hebrew form, is known as the name in the Church of Jerusalem. Simon is the Greek name of Simeon, and in many places the name Simon is used affectionately. The Gospel of John already said at the time of the calling, “You are Simon son of John, but from now on I will call you Kefah.” Kefa is the spoken Aramic of the time and means rock. In Greek, it is Peter. Since people at that time spoke both their native and Greek languages, the old and new names were often used together in John, like Simon Peter.
It is interesting that in today’s Gospel of Matthew, he is not called “son of John” but called “Baryona”, or “the son of Jonah”. John means “the Lord is gracious,” but Jonah means a “dove.” Peter tries to walk on the water when he sees Jesus standing in the storm, but when the strong wind blows, he panicked, be began to sink and asked Jesus for help. When they saw Moses and Elijah appearing to Jesus, he confessed and said “we will build up three tabernacles here…” Also, on the night when they had the last supper, He got afraid to be caught and he refused to confess that he knows Jesus three times. So, Jesus may have said he was the son of Jonah as he saw Peter always coward like a pigeon. I believe Jesus gave him the name “rock”, hoping that Peter will have a strong faith and be as tough as a rock.
Now let us turn to the most essential question in today’s Word. “So, what do you say I am?”
To this question, a moment of silence must have followed. They may have looked one another at the face. Then, Peter broke and made a great confession. And Jesus, who goes to the cross, now knows that at least one of his disciples knows he is the Messiah, anointed by God, the Son of the Living God.
The point to note here is that Jesus’ questions are asked to you, “who do you say I am?”. When Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” he answered, “Did you say that from your thoughts, or did other people tell you about me?”
Even if one knows all the works on Jesus to this day and all the views of the great thinker or theologian studying on Jesus, it is not enough. Christian faith is not on knowing about Jesus, but on knowing Jesus.
Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” is directed to each of us. Who do you say He is?
※2020.08.16 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time(A)
Fr. Suzuki, Michel Kunihiro
Today’s story is on Canaan woman. When Jesus went on to the province of Tyre and Sidon, a woman shouted at him and begged, “Son of David, Have mercy on us. My daughter is severely suffering from evil spirit.” But Jesus did not answer. Don’t you think why? The disciples even tried to drive away the woman, coldly. The expression “Do not take breads from children to feed a puppy” also calls our attention. He called her daughter a dog. These are words of Jesus, anyway.
Let us see how they came to Canaan. Today’s Bible starts from 15:21. At the beginning of Chapter 15, the Pharisees and the teachers of the laws are challenging Jesus why his disciples do not follow the old tradition. It is after the stories of miracle of bread and going away to rest and had a storm.
Jesus and his disciples are also exhausted and needed to rest. They were sick of that hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the laws and denied them with the sign of dusting off their soles before they leave Judea. As he dusted off his soles against the traditional religion, he may do so if he was tired of us.
Let us focus on a word “a puppy”. When we call someone a dog, it usually carries a sense of complete despise. The word, in fact, is an affectionate and gentle expression. A diminutive works to give words a meaning, “small” or “cute”. We sometimes find wild cats and their kiddies around the kitchen at our Seui welfare institution these days. In the past a wild cat also gave birth in the storage. Those kiddies are too quick to run to catch. Wild dogs may be fierce. They bear out their teeth and fears us. “A dog” gives us an impression of a filthy animal that scavenge for food in a garbage bag. Here is not the case. In Greek original text, a diminutive is used here to make kunarion out of kyunos. It sounds like a puppy kept by an owner lovingly. We can say that here Jesus calls it “a pup” affectionately.
I believe that he tried to find a faith in the land of foreigners. Jesus tests the Canaanite’s faith.
She was through Jesus’s severe words and responded “a puppy under the table of the Lord has crumb of breads fall from the table of the Lord” with the strong faith that no one else can heal her daughter.
The woman initially calls Jesus the son of David in ordinary language. Later, she changed her call into “the Lord” faithfully.
Finally, Jesus healed her daughter, rewarding the faith.
※2020.08.02 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time(A)
In the remote place
by Rev. Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
Today, I would like to focus on Jesus’s words before he did his wonders.
On July 31st, the kindergarten finally reached its closing ceremony. As we had been closed for the whole two months from April to May, to avoid the spread of novel Coronavirus, we opened for a whole month in July. The summer holidays will start from August 1st and be completed in 18th of the same month, and second semester will begin. Our teachers come at past 7 in the morning and work all through the day until 6 in the evening. Their schedules are too tight.
God made one day off a week from the beginning of the Creation. It is for giving thanks to God and recreation of our souls. A man needs to rest. The one who works and slaves every day and every night needs some extra days to compensate the holidays they did not rest. The Gospel of Mark, one of Synoptic Gospels, adds Jesus’s words to the disciples who are working all the day to this anecdote: “Go to at the place where you can rest yourselves for a while only by yourselves.” Jesus taught us to carry our cross and showed us how to unburden the cross as well.
“Give us our daily breads.”
This prayer is for our well-being. The breads are for supporting them. All they could do was, however, to break up the crowd. To the troubles which we cannot find anything to deal with, we tend to leave them untouched or to ignore them. We attempt to escape from ourselves and even from the real life otherwise.
How many breads do you have?
The Lord tells us to use what we have before you lose hope. A child shows five loaves of breads. The disciples dismiss them complaining they are not enough, on the other hand. The Lord tell us never to escape from ourselves. Only we have the answers.
I may have introduced to you one of my favorite Zen questions and answers. It is called Unmon’s kansiketu.
The monk asks, “Buddhism is a kanshiketu. Tell me why.”
-Kanshiketu is a piece of wood used for scraping feces after a bowel movement. It works like toilet papers today. –
Here, Unmon, the Zen Buddhist monk asks “the way of Buddha is a kanshiketu. Why?”
The Buddha is above earthly desires. He is a good worker, is not choosy, and asks no rewards. The monk says it does not particular about annals and works silently just like the Buddha. This is the answer.
Let us rephrase this. “What is a child of God? It is a dry but filthy stick.” In other words, the children of God are what we are. We are made a son of God by the faith in Jesus. It is not our good deed that live up to the divine will. Though we are weak, betray, and are filthy, we are the children of God if we follow Jesus. We are needed to always trust in God.
Do not escape from yourselves.
※2020.07.26 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time(A)
The hidden treasure (Matthew13・44-52)
by Rev. Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
Only the Gospel of Matthew tells today’s two parables.
The tale of a treasure hidden in a field and that of a pearl are much alike. In the ancient days, pearls are not to grow, but to find in the nature; therefore, it is quite expensive.
On the other hand, in Palestine, which is always at war, the ground is the best place to hide treasures.
In Japan Koban gold coins and Dosen copper coins were sometimes come across accidentally in large sum at the site of studying or building. Around 50 cases have been reported by now since the end of the war. People are still going everywhere looking for the fortune. It is commonly dealt in TV programs, movies, and novels even now.
The movie TITANIC was also about a sunken treasure ship.
The first lesson is that they are discovered by chance while the farmer is working well. He found it because he worked sincerely. He sold everything for the fortune in the end.
A law of Jewish Rabbi said about these kinds of treasures that when someone discovered them, these must belong to him. He does not need to report them. When someone find lost fruit or money, it also goes to the founder.
There are words of Jesus which are not written in the Gospels: “raise stones, then you will find me.” “Break woods, then I will be with you.” Jesus will be with you when craftsmen write and make. These stories also tell us that when we work sincerely, we will find the greatest treasures.
In the past, peals were special to everyone. Its value and beauty are the reason why everyone wanted to have them. Just a look of it on their hands made them happy. In those days it is found mostly around the Red Sea and by the sea of England, a place far away. Traders went around every market in the world seeking for the greatest pearls.
Pearls are like the Heaven for us. Men spend all their lives and take every means to get them. It is not found by chance. Both the story of a field and that of a pearl has the same end.
Jump at the greatest treasure when you find them.
Catch it for the live of you.
※2020.07.12 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time(A)
by Rev. Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
Abnormal weather is striking all the world. In Japan, training meteorology which is formed is causing the long rain which we still have. In Kyushu they had an extraordinarily high rainfall that reached to 70 millimeters per hour. Hita city in Oita prefecture had rainfall of 862 mm in 72 hours.
Overflow of rivers, landslides, and flash floods are caused everywhere. What on earth is happening all over the world?
In Africa and America, on the other hand, the damages done by the drought and forest fires are reported. Another news was that Victoria Fall which sits on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia has dried up and exposed its bedrock. Seventy five percent of wheat field, 82 percent of corn field, 62 percent of rice field, and 91 percent of soybean field of the world are said to be affected by droughts. What are these sings hinting at? The answer is our mutual support as human which is needed in all the thing.
Today’s words are parables of planting seeds. Palestine has many dry lands where they sow seeds. What is peculiar is the way this farmer does. In Japan, we would sow seeds in different way. We plow fields first to make “good soil” before carefully seeding not to waste even a single grain. That is the way Japanese do. We ordinarily dig a small hole on the plowed field, drop a seed, and fill it.
In Palestine in the days of Jesus they seeded first, and then plow up. They seed all over the land and then start to dig it up. They do not care stones, nor thorns when they seed because they will be dug up later. It is because in Palestine strong sunlight dries up the seeds if they were not laid deep in the soil. Seemingly this way wastes a lot of grains, but this brings a good harvest eventually.
Accordingly, from another aspect we can say that the point of this parable is not if the soil is good or not but if the farmer can keep trusting, hoping, and bearing before they have a large harvest.
Suppose it is the story of Jesus who takes care of the illiterate, the poor, the sinners, the sick, and the disabled when some criticized him for his evangelism, then the message from Jesus, according to Jeremias, a theologist, is “Their way may waste much time; however, it is the only way which brings a large harvest just like the way I teach.
The explanation of the parable Jesus made to the disciples is thought to be one of the parts which Early Christianity added later for their good lesson.
※2020.07.05 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
For I am meek and humble of heart
Rev. Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves (Mat11:29). “Behind it is Psalm 37:11,”But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace (Japan Bible Society translation).” Every translation has its word for “the meek”. JBS translates “the meek shall inherit the earth”, while Barbaro translation says, “the small will inherit the earth” and The New Interconfessional Translation, “the poor will inherit the earth”.
The Psalm is originally written in Hebrew. Each translation has “the meek”, “the small”, and “the poor” for the word in the original text, carefully trying to convey its true meaning. The original Hebrew word for it, “anaw” is said to describe a person who crouches and became short”. They say that the word means the people who is oppressed economically or suffering from abuse by others and that it is often translated into “the poor people”. As the Lord Jesus had Psalm 37 in his mind, it is good to say that “anaw” has both meaning “the small people” and “the poor people”.
Next, I cannot feel uncomfortable with “I am meek and humble of heart”. The word is not fine with me every time I read it. Jesus truly IS meek and humble. Although He was in the form of God, He emptied himself, coming in human likeness. Nevertheless, the phrase “meek and humble”, when spoken about oneself, gives us a wrong impression and sounds “stuck-up”. They are from a Greek word “tapeinos” and means “to be modest or to take down”. Iwanami translation says, “as I am meek and lowly in heart, you will find peace in your mind”. Barbaro translates “I am meek and humble in heart.” The Lord lowered himself of His own free will. I want a translation that clearly expresses His will.
Here, Jesus also says “In fact, I am poor and mean. I do not have anything like a qualification nor the position of Rabbi.” That is why the poor and the mean can come to Jesus without fear. In the days of Jesus, an entry into apprenticeship needed a great cost. However, no title, talent, nor money is needed to be a disciple of Jesus. Do not worry. And let us come to Jesus.
※2020.06.28 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time(A)
Commandment of love and ‘Love your parents’ by Rev. Fr. Suzuki Michael Kunihiro
At length Sunday Mass has been reopened, but with a long distance from each other person in the church, too. The number of participating people must be restricted. For some time, people who are not allowed to join the mass are desired to endure for love’s sake.
In today’s gospel, we find something surprising us. In the Ten Commandments we find, as the Fourth Commandment, “Honour your father and your mother,…” But, to love Jesus must be made more of it. If you change the phrase ‘to me’ to ‘to God’, you may be satisfied. In the Ten Commandments, too, the first three are talked about God, i.e. to praise only God as the Lord, not to make wrong use of the name of the Lord, to keep the Day of the Lord holy, and after that , to honour the father and the mother.
Then, concrtely, what are we required to do? “Today is the day of the lord, and the mass will be celebrated beginning at 10 o’clock. But my father is sick and needs help. What shall I do?” ……Stay at home without hesitating!
Jesus gave us the new commandment, “Love each other as I loved you.”
Commandment of love has priority. Meeting with the worldwide epidemic of the new type corona virus, the church called off masses, in order to prevent spread of the virus. It can be said, ‘for the sake of the love for the people’.
Observing the commandment given by Jesus leads up to loving Jesus.
In what cases loving God and loving one’s parents are conflicting with each other? For example, in the case that parents are making children commit sins. In case of being made commit a sin against the love of God, you should not obey. In case of being made put off the love for God, you should not obey.
But, Shusaku Endou decribes, in his novel titled “Silence”, conflicts between observing the God’s commandment and loving neighbors. It is a story of a priest who was captured in the persecution of Christians [under the Tokugawa-Government] and tortured in various ways, but was keeping his belief in God. However, when he knew about Christians hanged upside down in a hole and groaning because he was keeping his belief without saying “I give it up”, he was in anguish over whether he must tell “I give it up” in order to save them from pains. However much he prayed, God didn’t reply and kept “silence”. The priest had made a resolution to bear whatever cross. Nevertheless, when he knew that the faith of his was torturing other people, he gave up his faith for sake of his love for neighbours.
What would you reply?
(Translated from Japanese by N.F.)
※2020.06.21 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Sparrows in Kasukabe
Rev. Fr. Suzuki, Michael Kunihiro
I viewed across the garden from the window of the parsonage to find a couple of sparrows playing on the lawn. The picture touched my heart in memories of sweet old days. They used to come in every morning at the window of the top room in our three-storied church building while I was stationing in Kasukabe until two decades ago. I would lay some grains of rice by the window and they would come to wake me up in the next morning. They would even plead me for their meal with their heads knocking at the windowpanes when I missed serving.
Though they were many in the past, things are different now. The tile-roofed houses that keep their nests is getting lesser. Sparrows build their nests in the narrow ditch under the roofs. This is why.
They had been always around us for a long time. In the harvest season, they flock together at rice fields. Farmers tried every means such as a Shisiodoshi, a loud noise sending device made up with carbines to scare and drive them away. It has been long now since they all had gone.
I wonder if the wild-life restaurant at a corner of Ueno Park still serves their customers the dishes of a whole roasted sparrow. A sparrow once was the cheap source of protein.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?”. In Luke, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?”
A sparrow might have been of so little value that only a single sparrow cannot be enough for sale. Or else, it is no more than a gift to come along with other articles. Even that little creature does not fall to the ground without Divine Will. The point is that as we mean much to God far beyond comparison with the sparrows, why not give ourselves up to the Lord and why be afraid.
The outbreaks of novel coronavirus across the globe froze the world economy, stolen jobs, and killed many. Fears are between the citizens, Christian churches stand still, worry runs over on us. At this moment, the Lord says, “Trust in Me and never lose hope”.
Mass is coming back after a long rest on the 21st this month. Without wonder it will not be wide open enough. Starting from once in a Lord’s Day, mass will grow step by step by the time they return to normal. In the church we are asked to care for each other to stay away from “closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact with people”.
Trust in the Lord and never be afraid. Let us go and give our thanks to those working on bringing the pandemic to an end.