31 March 2010

31 Mar 2010, Wednesday of Holy Week

Reading I
Is 50:4-9a

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
My face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

Mt 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, AMy appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘“
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
“Surely it is not I, Lord?”
He said in reply,
“He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
“Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
He answered, “You have said so.”

Meditation: Matthew 26:14-25

Many of us grew up referring to the Wednesday before Easter as “Spy Wednesday,” the day when Judas conspired with the chief priests to have Jesus arrested.

Spy Wednesday focused on the intrigue surrounding Jesus’ last days and the mounting suspense as darkness closed in around him. Nowadays, the church focuses less on the darkness and less on the duplicity, self-seeking, and betrayal of Judas. Rather, we emphasize the light—the personal relationship that we can have with God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So celebrate the light! Try some of these activities to help you and your family focus on the blessing that today brings:

• If you have children at home, hide thirty coins around the house. Read today’s Gospel, and have them “spy out” the coins. If your children are old enough to understand, put the coins in your church’s poor box.

• Spend some time reflecting on your own journey from darkness to light. In each of our lives, the Holy Spirit has worked, and is still working, to bring us closer to Christ. Recall the times he has intervened, changed what was happening in your life, or made you aware of his guidance.

• Examine your conscience. What a great day to clear out any darkness that might lurk! Ask the Holy Spirit to show you especially any deceit, dishonesty, unfaithfulness, or self-seeking. And then, repent. Make the choice that Judas didn’t make but that Peter did. Don’t be afraid of what the Spirit will show you. He is gentle and kind, and wants only to draw you closer to Jesus.

• Spend some time praising God. Focus on Jesus, who turned Spy Wednesday into Holy Wednesday. He died so that we could be set free from the pall of darkness. He died so that we would never have to skulk through life, motivated by selfishness, greed, fear, or the need to control situations. No, we are children of the light!

So rejoice today, because Christ has shined on you!

“Jesus, thank you for dying for me. Thank you for bringing light into my life. Help me today to see and choose to do the things that please you most.”

30 March 2010

30 Mar 2010, Tuesday of Holy Week

Reading I
Is 49:1-6

Hear me, O islands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The Lord called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the Lord,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the Lord has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
That Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
And I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus’ side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,
“Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
“Buy what we need for the feast,”
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later.”
Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”

Meditation: Isaiah 49:1-6

Do you ever wonder what Jesus thought about his mission?

For thirty years, he lived a quiet, ordinary life as a Jewish carpenter in occupied Israel. Then he spent three years traveling the country, preaching and ministering. And finally he was killed. Surely he was tempted to think that it was all in vain, that his time was too short to do all he wanted to do. And look at who he commissioned to continue spreading his message: fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes—largely uneducated, untraveled, unimpor-tant people!

If everything depended on human beings, we would be in bad shape indeed. But it doesn’t! That’s why it is so important that we keep our eyes on who is in control, who has the knowledge and the wisdom and the understanding. Jesus’ life didn’t suddenly spin out of control during his final week. His Father was always in control. His plan might be beyond our understanding, but believe it: He does have a plan, and it is perfect!

The Jews had a plan: a messiah who would throw off the bonds of Rome. But the Father planned One who would light up the darkness of the world forever. God favored the Jews, promising to bring Jacob back and gather Israel to himself. But that wasn’t enough in God’s eyes! “It is too little … to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the survivors of Israel.” No, in Jesus he went much farther, ensuring that “salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).

Even as we recall the events in which Jesus’ faithful ones betray him and fall away, as we recount the proceedings that diverged so far from what anyone thought might happen, remember this: God’s power and glory and victory are supreme. Confusion, disloyalty, turmoil, and even death cannot defeat God’s plan. He is stronger and wiser and more creative than anything that comes against him. The events of Holy Week are disturbing, but never discouraging, for the kingdom and the power and the glory belong to God alone. His perfect plans always end in victory.

“Father, I believe that you are in control of everything. Increase my perception of your power, your plan, and your victory. Let the light of your salvation reach deeply into my heart today.”

29 March 2010

29 Mar 2010, Monday of Holy Week

Reading I
Is 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my Spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Jn 12:1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.

Meditation: Isaiah 42:1-7

We often think about the “good old days,” when everything seemed so much better and problems had simple solutions.

The people who first heard the words in this passage from Isaiah had good reason to wish for their own “good old days.” They were being held captive by the Babylonians, and word had come that the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. Even if they could go home, that homeland had become a desolate wasteland with very little to offer them.

All during Holy Week, we will read oracles about a “servant of the Lord” whose labors and sufferings will bring Israel to a better place. As we read these verses, we can tell that the restoration this servant would bring about wasn’t just a return to the good old days. God had more in store for his people than a nostalgic reliving of the past. They were destined to become a “covenant” to all the people of the earth, not just to live peaceably in their quiet little enclave (Isaiah 42:6). Israel had—and continues to have—a mission and purpose, and God will not rest until that mission is completed.

How much do you think about your own mission from the Lord? These words from Isaiah can sound very familiar to us—especially as we contemplate how Jesus fulfilled them in his passion and death. But Jesus came and died so that we could find the forgiveness, the grace, and the hope to get out and do our part in establishing justice on the earth (Isaiah 42:4).

As you begin your journey through Jesus’ passion this week, take some time to reflect on your own calling. How has God called you to be an agent of peace and reconciliation in your family or neighborhood? How can your witness to the joy of the resurrection change the atmosphere where you work? It can sound too optimistic to believe, but you really can make a difference in this world—especially as you let the Holy Spirit work in you and through you. Jesus’ death and resurrection are meant to do more than restore you to the “good old days.” They’re meant to empower you to bring forth the “even better days” that lie ahead.

“Jesus, you lead us to the fullness of the Father’s love through your death and resurrection. All praise, honor, and glory be to you for the life you give to us.”

28 March 2010

28 Mar 2010, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Reading I
Is 50:4-7

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

Reading II
Phil 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Lk 22:14—23:56

When the hour came,
Jesus took his place at table with the apostles.
He said to them,
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,
for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again
until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said,
“Take this and share it among yourselves;
for I tell you that from this time on
I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine
until the kingdom of God comes.”
Then he took the bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them, saying,
“This is my body, which will be given for you;
do this in memory of me.”
And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
which will be shed for you.

“And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me
is with me on the table;
for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined;
but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.”
And they began to debate among themselves
who among them would do such a deed.

Then an argument broke out among them
about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.
He said to them,
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them
and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’;
but among you it shall not be so.
Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest,
and the leader as the servant.
For who is greater:
the one seated at table or the one who serves?
Is it not the one seated at table?
I am among you as the one who serves.
It is you who have stood by me in my trials;
and I confer a kingdom on you,
just as my Father has conferred one on me,
that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom;
and you will sit on thrones
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded
to sift all of you like wheat,
but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail;
and once you have turned back,
you must strengthen your brothers.”
He said to him,
“Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.”
But he replied,
“I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day,
you will deny three times that you know me.”

He said to them,
“When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals,
were you in need of anything?”
“No, nothing, “ they replied.
He said to them,
“But now one who has a money bag should take it,
and likewise a sack,
and one who does not have a sword
should sell his cloak and buy one.
For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me,
namely, He was counted among the wicked;
and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.”
Then they said,
“Lord, look, there are two swords here.”
But he replied, “It is enough!”

Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives,
and the disciples followed him.
When he arrived at the place he said to them,
“Pray that you may not undergo the test.”
After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling,
he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing,
take this cup away from me;
still, not my will but yours be done.”
And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him.
He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently
that his sweat became like drops of blood
falling on the ground.
When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples,
he found them sleeping from grief.
He said to them, “Why are you sleeping?
Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.”

While he was still speaking, a crowd approached
and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas.
He went up to Jesus to kiss him.
Jesus said to him,
“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked,
“Lord, shall we strike with a sword?”
And one of them struck the high priest’s servant
and cut off his right ear.
But Jesus said in reply,
“Stop, no more of this!”
Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him.
And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards
and elders who had come for him,
“Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?
Day after day I was with you in the temple area,
and you did not seize me;
but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.”

After arresting him they led him away
and took him into the house of the high priest;
Peter was following at a distance.
They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it,
and Peter sat down with them.
When a maid saw him seated in the light,
she looked intently at him and said,
“This man too was with him.”
But he denied it saying,
“Woman, I do not know him.”
A short while later someone else saw him and said,
“You too are one of them”;
but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.”
About an hour later, still another insisted,
“Assuredly, this man too was with him,
for he also is a Galilean.”
But Peter said,
“My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.”
Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed,
and the Lord turned and looked at Peter;
and Peter remembered the word of the Lord,
how he had said to him,
“Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”
He went out and began to weep bitterly.
The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him.
They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying,
“Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”
And they reviled him in saying many other things against him.

When day came the council of elders of the people met,
both chief priests and scribes,
and they brought him before their Sanhedrin.
They said, “If you are the Christ, tell us, “
but he replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe,
and if I question, you will not respond.
But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated
at the right hand of the power of God.”
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied to them, “You say that I am.”
Then they said, “What further need have we for testimony?
We have heard it from his own mouth.”

Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate.
They brought charges against him, saying,
“We found this man misleading our people;
he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar
and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.”
Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
He said to him in reply, “You say so.”
Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds,
“I find this man not guilty.”
But they were adamant and said,
“He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea,
from Galilee where he began even to here.”

On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean;
and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction,
he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time.
Herod was very glad to see Jesus;
he had been wanting to see him for a long time,
for he had heard about him
and had been hoping to see him perform some sign.
He questioned him at length,
but he gave him no answer.
The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile,
stood by accusing him harshly.
Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him,
and after clothing him in resplendent garb,
he sent him back to Pilate.
Herod and Pilate became friends that very day,
even though they had been enemies formerly.
Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people
and said to them, “You brought this man to me
and accused him of inciting the people to revolt.
I have conducted my investigation in your presence
and have not found this man guilty
of the charges you have brought against him,
nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us.
So no capital crime has been committed by him.
Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

But all together they shouted out,
“Away with this man!
Release Barabbas to us.”
— Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion
that had taken place in the city and for murder. —
Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus,
but they continued their shouting,
“Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Pilate addressed them a third time,
“What evil has this man done?
I found him guilty of no capital crime.
Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”
With loud shouts, however,
they persisted in calling for his crucifixion,
and their voices prevailed.
The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted.
So he released the man who had been imprisoned
for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked,
and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.

As they led him away
they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian,
who was coming in from the country;
and after laying the cross on him,
they made him carry it behind Jesus.
A large crowd of people followed Jesus,
including many women who mourned and lamented him.
Jesus turned to them and said,
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me;
weep instead for yourselves and for your children
for indeed, the days are coming when people will say,
‘Blessed are the barren,
the wombs that never bore
and the breasts that never nursed.’
At that time people will say to the mountains,
‘Fall upon us!’
and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’
for if these things are done when the wood is green
what will happen when it is dry?”
Now two others, both criminals,
were led away with him to be executed.

When they came to the place called the Skull,
they crucified him and the criminals there,
one on his right, the other on his left.
Then Jesus said,
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
They divided his garments by casting lots.
The people stood by and watched;
the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon
because of an eclipse of the sun.
Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”;
and when he had said this he breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said,
“This man was innocent beyond doubt.”
When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened,
they returned home beating their breasts;
but all his acquaintances stood at a distance,
including the women who had followed him from Galilee
and saw these events.
Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who,
though he was a member of the council,
had not consented to their plan of action.
He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea
and was awaiting the kingdom of God.
He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
After he had taken the body down,
he wrapped it in a linen cloth
and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb
in which no one had yet been buried.
It was the day of preparation,
and the sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind,
and when they had seen the tomb
and the way in which his body was laid in it,
they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils.
Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

Meditation: Luke 22:14–23:56

The Passion of the Lord

How Jesus must have enjoyed celebrating his final Passover with his disciples! For three years, he had been with them, enjoyed their company, taught them, even laughed with them. He knew their strengths and weaknesses, their quirks and idiosyncrasies—and he loved them. Jesus knew the time had come for him to give up his life, but he was still able to share a meal with these close friends.

Jesus knew that these men would fall away when he was arrested. But he also knew that they would turn around and become the leaders he had formed them to be. Peter would weep over denying him, but then would become the rock. James and John would stop seeking seats of honor and would instead consider it an honor to give up their lives for the church. And Thomas would have his moment of doubt and stubbornness, but would also become a fearless preacher of the gospel. Jesus also knew that his Father would hear his prayer for them—that they would hold fast to who Jesus is and be protected from the evil one.

We may not have been present at the Last Supper, but we can still use our imaginations to place ourselves there. Imagine Jesus telling you about the gift of his body and blood—and linking that to his ultimate gift of his very life on the cross. See the expression on his face, a combination of love and determination, of sadness and hope. He knows what he is giving up for you, and he longs for you to respond in the deepest way possible.

Even though the Passion happened nearly two thousand years ago, it has lost none of its power. That power is available to us at every Mass—the power to change, the power to love, the power to be raised up with Jesus on Easter Sunday. May God bless you this Holy Week as you recall his love and mercy.

“Thank you, Jesus, for sharing your life with me. May I never forget all that you have done for me!”

Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Discussion

Isaiah 50:4-7, Psalm 22:8-9,17-20,23-24, Philippians 2:6-11, Luke 22:14–23:56

1. In the Gospel at the procession with palms, we read of the crowd’s joy and celebration at Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem on Sunday. By Friday, much of this same crowd was to turn against him. In what ways can your own relationship with Christ be like a “fair weather” friend? What steps can you do to strengthen your relationship with Jesus?

2. The first reading provides us with one of the many prophecies in Isaiah on the suffering Christ would endure for us. It also speaks of a well-trained tongue the Lord has given Isaiah to “speak to the weary a word that will rouse them” (Isaiah 50:4). What steps can you take to train your tongue to speak words of comfort to the weary you encounter during the day?

3. Again in the Responsorial Psalm, we find words foretelling Christ’s suffering. As in the first reading, even in the midst of his suffering, he prays to and honors God. What are some of the reasons, listed in the first reading and the Responsorial Psalm, that enables him to do this? How do you handle suffering and misfortune in your own life? What can you learn from the first reading and the Responsorial Psalm that will help to strengthen you in times of suffering?

4. In the letter to the Philippians, St. Paul says that Christ “emptied himself” of his rights as God to save us. Do you tend to stand on your “rights” in your relationships with others? In order to serve and save others, what might God be asking you to empty yourself of?

5. In Luke’s version of the passion narrative, at supper the disciples are arguing about which of them is the greatest. Christ gives them himself as an example: “I am among you as the one who serves”. In imitation of Christ, how might you be of more loving service to others in your family, or in your parish, or at work?

6. In the garden, Jesus asks his disciples to pray with him? What steps can you take during Holy Week to spend extra time with Christ in prayer and Scripture reading?

7. In the meditation, we hear these words: “Even though the Passion happened nearly two thousand years ago, it has lost none of its power. That power is available to us at every Mass—the power to change, the power to love, the power to be raised up with Jesus on Easter Sunday.” In preparing for Mass, what can you do to open yourself more to the transforming power of the Eucharist?

27 March 2010

27 Mar 2010, Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Reading I
Ez 37:21-28

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I will take the children of Israel from among the nations
to which they have come,
and gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land.
I will make them one nation upon the land,
in the mountains of Israel,
and there shall be one prince for them all.
Never again shall they be two nations,
and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.

No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols,
their abominations, and all their transgressions.
I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy,
and cleanse them so that they may be my people
and I may be their God.
My servant David shall be prince over them,
and there shall be one shepherd for them all;
they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees.
They shall live on the land that I gave to my servant Jacob,
the land where their fathers lived;
they shall live on it forever,
they, and their children, and their children’s children,
with my servant David their prince forever.
I will make with them a covenant of peace;
it shall be an everlasting covenant with them,
and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever.
My dwelling shall be with them;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the LORD,
who make Israel holy,
when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.

Jn 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
“What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation.”
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
“You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.

So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, “What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?”

Meditation: Ezekiel 37: 21-28

It has become common to think of a “prophet” as a person who can foretell the future, one who perhaps lives a rather odd life.

A prophet, however, is simply someone who hears from the Lord and is able to speak to others what God has said to him or her. Ezekiel was given one clear word, which he announced over and over: Yahweh is the Lord. Not the rulers in the lands to which the Israelites were exiled. Not the gods of these rulers. Only Yahweh. He alone has the authority and power and desire to restore his people.

This message from Ezekiel had a special sense of urgency about it because of the state of the people to whom God had sent him. Israel was in exile, banished from the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of the land God had promised them. That’s exile: living in unfamiliar territory or a land that belongs to someone else. But despite their exile, Yahweh—the one true God—promised to bring them home. No longer would they be divided or defiled. No longer would they be isolated or abandoned. No, God was going to deliver them and make them his people again. He wanted to shepherd them, establish peace with them, and live with them forever.

Few of us are exiled literally, but all of us have at times lived as exiles from the kingdom of God. These “lands” each have their own idols. They all have their own particular sins and, honestly, fairly dense populations. It might be an exile to the domain of drug and alcohol abuse or the realm of bitterness, anger, and resentment. Perhaps it’s the land of lying, cheating, or stealing, or the nation of competition, acquisition, and pride.

It may seem dark in our land of exile, but Ezekiel has a word for us: God wants to bring us home! He is the one true God, the only one powerful enough to rescue us and plant us firmly in his kingdom. No matter how deep our hurt, how strong our hurt, or how stubborn our hearts, our God is greater. His eye is upon us. His hand is stretched out toward us. So let’s reach out to him!

“Father, you are my Lord and my God. Come into my heart today, and establish your kingdom within me!”

26 March 2010

26 Mar 2010, Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Reading I
Jer 20:10-13

I hear the whisperings of many:
“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
“Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him.”
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
O LORD of hosts, you who test the just,
who probe mind and heart,
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.
Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!

Jn 10:31-42

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.
For which of these are you trying to stone me?”
The Jews answered him,
“We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy.
You, a man, are making yourself God.”
Jesus answered them,
“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, AYou are gods”‘?
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came,
and Scripture cannot be set aside,
can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world
blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Then they tried again to arrest him;
but he escaped from their power.

He went back across the Jordan
to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.
Many came to him and said,
“John performed no sign,
but everything John said about this man was true.”
And many there began to believe in him.

Meditation: Jeremiah 20:10-13

Have you ever felt like people were out to get you?

Or maybe you have felt as though someone has worked to undermine or mock you. Well, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in good company. All three of today’s readings show heroes of the faith—Jeremiah, David, and Jesus—responding to public smearing, threats, and betrayal.

So how do you respond when you find yourself in a situation like this? Do you echo Jeremiah’s plea: “O Lord of hosts … Let me witness the vengeance you take on them” (Jeremiah 20:12)? Or do you follow Jesus’ words: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:44-45)?

Place yourself in Jeremiah’s shoes. He had been given the heavy task of proclaiming prophecies of judgment on his wayward family, friends, and countrymen. He prayed to the Lord to have mercy, but the people repaid him with plots to kill him. In fact, Jeremiah’s prayer in today’s first reading follows the discovery of a second plot to kill him!

Although Jeremiah adds a sharp, vengeful little request in his prayer, he nonetheless exemplifies an admirable response to injustice and malice. He takes his broken heart to God. And this sign of trust pleased the Lord deeply. He comforted Jeremiah, gave him strength for his task, and even rescued him from “the power of the wicked” who were out to get him (Jeremiah 20:13).

Do you believe that you can go to your Father in just the same way? It’s true. It won’t upset him to hear your frustration. And it’s much better to let it out than to keep it inside. God knows your heart, and he is always ready to give you his heart as you pour out yours to him.

As you try this open, two-way approach, you will begin to see your prayers of anger and frustration turn into prayers of compassion and mercy. Give God the time, and he will transform you!

“Father, I trust that you will be patient with me when I share my heart with you. Please hear my prayer, and teach me the way of love and forgiveness.”

25 March 2010

25 Mar 2010 Thursday, Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Reading I
Is 7:10-14; 8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us!”

Reading II
Heb 10:4-10

Brothers and sisters:
It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats
take away sins.
For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.’”

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Meditation: Luke 1:26-38

The Annunciation of the Lord

Most of us have probably known someone about whom we could say, “She was like a mother to me.” Perhaps this person showed us kindness when we were in need. Part of that motherly quality was that she couldn’t say no to anyone. She always seemed to be helping someone, whether it was the unfortunate or her friends and neighbors. She had an openness to others that made people seek her out. When they came into contact with her, they felt loved and nurtured.

Mary certainly had all of these qualities—only to a much greater degree. When she agreed to accept Jesus as her son, she also accepted the whole human race as her children! Even during her lifetime, Mary helped form the first Christian community by welcoming all those Jesus called “the least of these.” Now in heaven with her son, she welcomes all of us.

There was a wideness to the way Mary embraced her calling. Tax collectors, prostitutes, honest fishermen—they all found a home in her heart. And even today, Mary doesn’t pick and choose among us. She receives everyone who comes to her; she doesn’t discriminate but intercedes for all of us with equal compassion and love. And even as she receives us, she urges us to be just as open and generous with each other. Not judging. Not particular. Not hot and cold. Rather, she asks us to see everyone as members of our family, as brothers and sisters who are all deserving of our prayer, our attention, and our concern.

So turn to Mary today and ask her to intercede for you. Is there someone you think the Lord is asking you to reach out to? Pray for guidance and a little bit of courage. Then look for an opportunity to care for that person. Your willingness to share yourself may be more important than you know. When people see the Lord living in us and hear what he has done in our lives, their hearts can soften. Don’t discount the impact you can have on people. If God can take a teenage girl and turn her into the mother of the church, imagine what he can do with you!

“Lord, thank you for giving us your Blessed Mother, your first and most loving disciple. May I follow her example and show your mercy to everyone you put in my path.”

24 March 2010

24 Mar 2010, Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Reading I
Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95

King Nebuchadnezzar said:
“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
that you will not serve my god,
or worship the golden statue that I set up?
Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made,
whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet,
flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe,
and all the other musical instruments;
otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace;
and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar,
“There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you
in this matter.
If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may he save us!
But even if he will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue that you set up.”

King Nebuchadnezzar’s face became livid with utter rage
against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual
and had some of the strongest men in his army
bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
and cast them into the white-hot furnace.

Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and asked his nobles,
“Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”
“Assuredly, O king,” they answered.
“But,” he replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt,
walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed,
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him;
they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies
rather than serve or worship any god
except their own God.”

Jn 8:31-42

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!”
So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”

Meditation: John 8:31-42

Fatherhood and sonship seem to be at the center of the debate here between Jesus and some of the Jewish leaders. Weren’t they sons of Abraham? Didn’t God choose them from all the nations and call them to be his own?

Well, yes and no.

There are two ways to understand what it means to be a child. You can conceive a child, and genetically that child is yours. However, unless that child lives under your roof and takes on your reasoning, your outlook, and your approach to life, then an essential element of sonship is missing.

For many of the Jewish leaders, being a son of Abraham was a lot like the first kind of sonship. God had adopted them as his own, and that’s all there was to it. To the extent that they didn’t try to take after their father, they missed out on the deeper—and more satisfying—aspect of being children of God. Of course, not all the Jews approached their faith like this. But some were content with just being a descendent of Abraham, without sincerely opening themselves to experience the joy and freedom that God intended for them.

Brothers and sisters, we can become children of God in the deepest, most powerful way possible. We can begin to take on our Father’s habits, his likeness, and his philosophies. This is why Jesus came to us in the first place. He didn’t come just to do away with sin. He came to make us into his brothers and sisters, bearers of the family resemblance (John 1:12-13). “Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God’s family, to live in conformity with his way of life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2233).

Every day is filled with opportunities to take on the family resemblance. It’s not always easy, but neither is it all that difficult. We can refuse to join in gossip. We can forgive someone who has deeply hurt us. We can lend a helping hand or perform anonymous acts of service. As often as we do these things, we are showing the whole world that we have accepted the privilege of being members of God’s family.

“Father, thank you for sending Jesus to us. Thank you for filling us with your Spirit and making us your children. Help me to be faithful to your law of love so that I may become more and more like you.”

23 March 2010

23 Mar 2010, Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Reading I
Nm 21:4-9

From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road, to bypass the land of Edom.
But with their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
“Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!”

In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Then the people came to Moses and said,
“We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents away from us.”
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Jn 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come.”
So the Jews said,
“He is not going to kill himself, is he,
because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?”
He said to them, “You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins.”
So they said to him, “Who are you?”
Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.
But the one who sent me is true,
and what I heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them,
“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him.”
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
Meditation: John 8:21-30

When the Pharisees heard Jesus saying these words, they were aghast that this man, who had no position in the Sanhedrin would make such a statement about himself. You can also imagine the whispering and angry comments that circulated as Jesus said: “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above” (John 8:23).

As abrupt and unexpected as these words are, they convey a beautiful promise: Jesus wants us to live “above” with him, not only in the eternity of heaven but even here, on earth.

This is a lofty, even comforting, sentiment. But what does it mean in our everyday lives? How can we place ourselves in a position where we can be lifted up with Jesus? One way is to pay attention to the way we react when someone or something tempts us to anger. Do we stop and say a quick prayer for patience and understanding before we speak? Or do we lose our temper and lash out? The more we practice patience and ask the Lord for help, the more we will find the Holy Spirit lifting us up and giving us his own grace and strength.

During this special season of introspection and self-denial, let’s ask the Lord to help us recognize all the patterns of our fallen nature: not just anger but selfishness, greed, resentment, and pride. Let’s place our hope in the promise that, together with the Holy Spirit, we can overcome these vices and become more like Jesus, the One who lived “above” all the time.

Yes, it takes time and a great deal of our own will to do it. Yes, we will also falter and fail at times. But if we persist in asking the Lord for his help, and if we persist in trying our best to turn away from sin, we will find ourselves more humble, more loving, more compassionate, more stable and purposeful in our actions and intentions. In other words, we will find ourselves experiencing heavenly life with Jesus, even as we go about our everyday lives here on earth.

“Jesus, fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I may become dead to my sins. I don’t want to die in my sins. Rather, I want to live with you in heaven.”

22 March 2010

22 Mar 2010, Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Reading I
Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41c-62

In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim,
who married a very beautiful and God-fearing woman, Susanna,
the daughter of Hilkiah;
her pious parents had trained their daughter
according to the law of Moses.
Joakim was very rich;
he had a garden near his house,
and the Jews had recourse to him often
because he was the most respected of them all.

That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges,
of whom the Lord said, “Wickedness has come out of Babylon:
from the elders who were to govern the people as judges.”
These men, to whom all brought their cases,
frequented the house of Joakim.
When the people left at noon,
Susanna used to enter her husband’s garden for a walk.
When the old men saw her enter every day for her walk,
they began to lust for her.
They suppressed their consciences;
they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven,
and did not keep in mind just judgments.

One day, while they were waiting for the right moment,
she entered the garden as usual, with two maids only.
She decided to bathe, for the weather was warm.
Nobody else was there except the two elders,
who had hidden themselves and were watching her.
“Bring me oil and soap,” she said to the maids,
“and shut the garden doors while I bathe.”

As soon as the maids had left,
the two old men got up and hurried to her.
“Look,” they said, “the garden doors are shut, and no one can see us;
give in to our desire, and lie with us.
If you refuse, we will testify against you
that you dismissed your maids because a young man was here with you.”

“I am completely trapped,” Susanna groaned.
“If I yield, it will be my death;
if I refuse, I cannot escape your power.
Yet it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt
than to sin before the Lord.”
Then Susanna shrieked, and the old men also shouted at her,
as one of them ran to open the garden doors.
When the people in the house heard the cries from the garden,
they rushed in by the side gate to see what had happened to her.
At the accusations by the old men,
the servants felt very much ashamed,
for never had any such thing been said about Susanna.

When the people came to her husband Joakim the next day,
the two wicked elders also came,
fully determined to put Susanna to death.
Before all the people they ordered:
“Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah,
the wife of Joakim.”
When she was sent for,
she came with her parents, children and all her relatives.
All her relatives and the onlookers were weeping.

In the midst of the people the two elders rose up
and laid their hands on her head.
Through tears she looked up to heaven,
for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly.
The elders made this accusation:
“As we were walking in the garden alone,
this woman entered with two girls
and shut the doors of the garden, dismissing the girls.
A young man, who was hidden there, came and lay with her.
When we, in a corner of the garden, saw this crime,
we ran toward them.
We saw them lying together,
but the man we could not hold, because he was stronger than we;
he opened the doors and ran off.
Then we seized her and asked who the young man was,
but she refused to tell us.
We testify to this.”
The assembly believed them,
since they were elders and judges of the people,
and they condemned her to death.

But Susanna cried aloud:
“O eternal God, you know what is hidden
and are aware of all things before they come to be:
you know that they have testified falsely against me.
Here I am about to die,
though I have done none of the things
with which these wicked men have charged me.”

The Lord heard her prayer.
As she was being led to execution,
God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel,
and he cried aloud:
“I will have no part in the death of this woman.”
All the people turned and asked him, “What is this you are saying?”
He stood in their midst and continued,
“Are you such fools, O children of Israel!
To condemn a woman of Israel without examination
and without clear evidence?
Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”

Then all the people returned in haste.
To Daniel the elders said,
“Come, sit with us and inform us,
since God has given you the prestige of old age.”
But he replied,
“Separate these two far from each other that I may examine them.”

After they were separated one from the other,
he called one of them and said:
“How you have grown evil with age!
Now have your past sins come to term:
passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent,
and freeing the guilty, although the Lord says,
‘The innocent and the just you shall not put to death.’
Now, then, if you were a witness,
tell me under what tree you saw them together.”
“Under a mastic tree,” he answered.
Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you your head,
for the angel of God shall receive the sentence from him
and split you in two.”
Putting him to one side, he ordered the other one to be brought.
Daniel said to him,
“Offspring of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you,
lust has subverted your conscience.
This is how you acted with the daughters of Israel,
and in their fear they yielded to you;
but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your wickedness.
Now, then, tell me under what tree you surprised them together.”
“Under an oak,” he said.
Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you also your head,
for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two
so as to make an end of you both.”

The whole assembly cried aloud,
blessing God who saves those who hope in him.
They rose up against the two elders,
for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury.
According to the law of Moses,
they inflicted on them
the penalty they had plotted to impose on their neighbor:
they put them to death.
Thus was innocent blood spared that day.


The assembly condemned Susanna to death.

But Susanna cried aloud:
“O eternal God, you know what is hidden
and are aware of all things before they come to be:
you know that they have testified falsely against me.
Here I am about to die,
though I have done none of the things
with which these wicked men have charged me.”

The Lord heard her prayer.
As she was being led to execution,
God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel,
and he cried aloud:
“I will have no part in the death of this woman.”
All the people turned and asked him,
“What is this you are saying?”
He stood in their midst and continued,
“Are you such fools, O children of Israel!
To condemn a woman of Israel without examination
and without clear evidence?
Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”

Then all the people returned in haste.
To Daniel the elders said,
“Come, sit with us and inform us,
since God has given you the prestige of old age.”
But he replied,
“Separate these two far from each other that I may examine them.”

After they were separated one from the other,
he called one of them and said:
“How you have grown evil with age!
Now have your past sins come to term:
passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent,
and freeing the guilty, although the Lord says,
‘The innocent and the just you shall not put to death.’
Now, then, if you were a witness,
tell me under what tree you saw them together.”
“Under a mastic tree,” he answered.
Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you your head,
for the angel of God shall receive the sentence from him
and split you in two.”
Putting him to one side, he ordered the other one to be brought.
Daniel said to him, “Offspring of Canaan, not of Judah,
beauty has seduced you, lust has subverted your conscience.
This is how you acted with the daughters of Israel,
and in their fear they yielded to you;
but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your wickedness.
Now, then, tell me under what tree you surprised them together.”
“Under an oak,” he said.
Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you also your head,”
for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two
so as to make an end of you both.”

The whole assembly cried aloud,
blessing God who saves those who hope in him.
They rose up against the two elders,
for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury.
According to the law of Moses,
they inflicted on them
the penalty they had plotted to impose on their neighbor:
they put them to death.
Thus was innocent blood spared that day.

Jn 8:12-20

Jesus spoke to them again, saying,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
So the Pharisees said to him,
“You testify on your own behalf,
so your testimony cannot be verified.”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Even if I do testify on my own behalf, my testimony can be verified,
because I know where I came from and where I am going.
But you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone.
And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid,
because I am not alone,
but it is I and the Father who sent me.
Even in your law it is written
that the testimony of two men can be verified.
I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.”
So they said to him, “Where is your father?”
Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father.
If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
He spoke these words
while teaching in the treasury in the temple area.
But no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Meditation: John 8:12-20

I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)

Lord Jesus, you are light and in you is no darkness! The light of your presence is as bright as the sun on a cloudless day. Nothing can obscure your purity or overshadow your radiance.

Jesus, the light of God’s truth shines in you, bringing an end to confusion. Your true light brings light to all people, no matter where they are. It is constant and consistent in the midst of the changing philosophies of our world. We can depend on you never to fade with time.

Lord, your brilliance has dispelled the darkness of sin, both in our hearts and in the world. Your light has shone forth like the sun’s rays into every dark corner and brought it to light. In the dawn of the resurrection, you are the sun that forever rises on the dark night of sin and death. You have overcome them and drive them back with the light of your redemption! Even if the darkness fights you, your light cannot be extinguished! Darkness can never overcome you!

All praise to you, Jesus, for illuminating our lives as we turn to you! When you shine on our hearts, we see our darkness. We are brought into the light like newborn babies, blinking in the intensity of your brightness. But the more we live in your light, the better we see and turn from the darkness.

Lord, every day you shine your light on our way through your word in Scripture. Your light directs our feet and teaches us the way to go. As we follow you, our whole path is illuminated, and we are set free to embrace the calling you have given us.

Lord, you have called us to be light to the world! As the flame of your life is ignited in us, your brilliance shines out of us and onto others. We become reflections of your life, like a lamp on top of a hill, drawing people to you. We become your beacons, manifesting your holiness, your joy, and your plan to all the world. What an amazing privilege!

“Jesus, light of the world, shine in my life! Drive away the darkness of sin, convince me of your truth, guide my path, and enable me to shine your light to others!”

21 March 2010

21 Mar 2010, Fifth Sunday of Lent

Reading I
Is 43:16-21

Thus says the LORD,
who opens a way in the sea
and a path in the mighty waters,
who leads out chariots and horsemen,
a powerful army,
till they lie prostrate together, never to rise,
snuffed out and quenched like a wick.
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
Wild beasts honor me,
jackals and ostriches,
for I put water in the desert
and rivers in the wasteland
for my chosen people to drink,
the people whom I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.

Reading II
Phil 3:8-14

Brothers and sisters:
I consider everything as a loss
because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things
and I consider them so much rubbish,
that I may gain Christ and be found in him,
not having any righteousness of my own based on the law
but that which comes through faith in Christ,
the righteousness from God,
depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection
and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death,
if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
It is not that I have already taken hold of it
or have already attained perfect maturity,
but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it,
since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, I for my part
do not consider myself to have taken possession.
Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,
the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.

Jn 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

Meditation: John 8:1-11

You are running late, so your right foot steps hard on the gas pedal as you run the red light. Suddenly, lights begin flashing in your rearview mirror as a police car comes up behind you. As you try to collect your thoughts, you pray that the officer will show you mercy. And as if miraculously, he cites you with only a warning and lets you go your way.

Sometimes we view the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading as police officers who enforced the law with no mercy—the exact opposite of the officer described above who was kind and lenient. If that’s how we view these religious leaders, it would be only natural for us to imagine them walking away from this scene disappointed. But let’s imagine another possibility.

Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone. (John 8:7) Jesus had just hinted that he knew all their sins, but he didn’t call them out. Instead, he treated them with the same mercy that he showed to the adulterous woman. One by one, they walked away. Perhaps some of them were struck by Jesus’ fairness and calm. Maybe some even began to follow him. Maybe there were genuine conversions that day, all because of mercy.

We are all sinners, and we all deserve condemnation. Because of God’s undying love, we have all been spared condemnation. According to the Law of Moses, that woman should have died. But Jesus set her free. Today, he is waiting to set you free as well. So gaze at the cross and marvel at the mercy of God. With all the gratitude you can muster, confess that you have been spared judgment and have been given the promise of eternal life! And if you want to throw a stone at another person, even if they deserve it, try to let it go, knowing that Jesus will never throw one at you.

“Thank you, Jesus, for the mercy and grace that you have given me. Father, let these truths mold my heart today, so that I can share that mercy and compassion with everyone I meet.”

Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Discussion

Readings: Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126:1-6, Philippians 3:8-14, John 8:1-11

1. In the first reading, God tells us of all the new and wonderful things he has done for the people he has formed “that they might announce my praise.” During the day are you more inclined to periodically turn to God and give him thanks and praise or ignore him? What practical steps can you take to help you to turn to the Lord more often during the day?

2. The response to the Responsorial Psalm is “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” How would you describe some of the “great things” the Lord has done for you?

3. The Responsorial Psalm also speaks of the laughter and rejoicing which should be ours in Christ, not superficial giddiness but the joy of one who has experienced God’s love and touch in his life. During the day, would others say that is the kind of Christian you are? What are can you do during the day to fill it with more joy?

4. In the Second Reading, St. Paul told the Philippians that he considered everything a loss compared to knowing – that is experiencing - the touch of Christ in his life. He also said he considered everything as rubbish, compared to gaining Christ and being found in him. Why do you think Paul was able to say these things? Are you able to say the same thing based on your own experience of Jesus Christ? Why or why not?

5. St. Paul also says that while he may not have eternal life yet, nevertheless, he has been taken possession of by Christ? What can you do to allow Christ to take greater ownership of your life?

6. In the familiar Gospel, Jesus offers love and forgiveness in contrast to those who seek only “justice” and the law. In what ways is your attitude one of wanting mercy from God for yourself, but “justice” for everyone else? Are you the first to cast the stone? How can you make love and mercy for others the hallmark of your life?

7. The meditation ends with these words: “We are all sinners, and we all deserve condemnation. Because of God’s undying love, we have all been spared condemnation. According to the Law of Moses, that woman should have died. But Jesus set her free. Today, he is waiting to set you free as well. So gaze at the cross and marvel at the mercy of God. With all the gratitude you can muster, confess that you have been spared judgment and have been given the promise of eternal life! And if you want to throw a stone at another person, even if they deserve it, try to let it go, knowing that Jesus will never throw one at you.” What do these words mean to you? Take some time now to pray for yourself, and others close to you, that you and they would forgive others as the Lord has forgiven you. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as a starting point.

20 March 2010

20 Mar 2010, Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Reading I
Jer 11:18-20

I knew their plot because the LORD informed me;
at that time you, O LORD, showed me their doings.

Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter,
had not realized that they were hatching plots against me:
“Let us destroy the tree in its vigor;
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will be spoken no more.”

But, you, O LORD of hosts, O just Judge,
searcher of mind and heart,
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause!

Jn 7:40-53

Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said,
“This is truly the Prophet.”
Others said, “This is the Christ.”
But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.

So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?”
The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.”
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
“Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”
They answered and said to him,
“You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Then each went to his own house.

Meditation: John 7:40-53

Imagine the scene: a large crowd in Jerusalem, packing the streets, for the Festival of Tabernacles.

The people have heard of this man, Jesus, who teaches with authority and cures the sick. Then they hear him speaking and are spellbound. Surely this man is a prophet—or maybe even the Messiah.

But he is from Galilee. The Messiah is to come from Bethlehem, the city of David. Suddenly people are arguing, and they separate into two camps: those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah—the one from whom rivers of living water flow (John 7:38)—and those who think he couldn’t possibly be the Messiah because his background doesn’t square with the Scriptures.

We would expect that Jesus’ coming would usher in a time of peace, and yet there is division in the crowd, foreshadowing the divisions that will occur after his death and resurrection between those who believe in him and those who don’t (John 7:43). But we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus himself said that he came “to bring not peace but the sword … to set a man against his father and a daughter against his mother” (Matthew 10:34,35).

The fact is, we can’t remain indifferent to Jesus. We can’t ignore or make light of his words and deeds. He makes amazing claims about who he is and what his Father has sent him to do. As the guards tell the Pharisees, “Never before has anyone spoken like this one” (John 7:46). Do we believe him or not? We have to choose.

And when we do choose to believe in Jesus, we should not be surprised if some oppose us. It may even be members of our family, who feel uncomfortable with our beliefs; or our co-workers, who wonder why we live and act as we do. Some may even dislike or ridicule us for being Christian.

Yet Jesus loves everyone, even those who reject him. And if he loves them, so should we. Who knows? Maybe our love will help them choose to follow him. Stranger—and more wonderful—things have happened before. And we can be sure that God wants them to happen again!

“Jesus, I choose to follow you. Help me to love even those who reject you. May I be a reflection of your light to them.”

19 March 2010

19 Mar 2010 Fri, Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Reading I
2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16

The Lord spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David,
‘When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.’”

Reading II
Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22

Brothers and sisters:
It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.
For this reason, it depends on faith,
so that it may be a gift,
and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not to those who only adhere to the law
but to those who follow the faith of Abraham,
who is the father of all of us, as it is written,
I have made you father of many nations.
He is our father in the sight of God,
in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead
and calls into being what does not exist.
He believed, hoping against hope,
that he would become the father of many nations,
according to what was said, Thus shall your descendants be.
That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.

Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a or Lk 2:41-51a

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.


Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
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.

Meditation: Romans 4:13,16-18,22

St. Joseph

In the Book of Genesis, there is a touching scene where God takes Abraham outside on a starry night. You can almost picture the Father with his arm around the perplexed man, telling him: “Look up at the sky, and count the stars, if you can. Just so … shall your descendants be.” It must have been quite a stretch for Abraham to believe this. Years had passed since God’s first promise of descendants, but he and Sarah remained childless. And yet, Abraham “put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness” (Genesis 15:5,6).

Many centuries later, God made a night visit to one of Abraham’s descendants, who was also perplexed. What he promised Joseph was even harder to believe: Mary’s child had been conceived “through the holy Spirit” and would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20,21). Did Joseph think of Abraham as he pondered all this? Since he was a devout Jew who knew the Scriptures and would have looked to Abraham as a model, it seems quite possible. Certainly, Joseph responded as a true son of Abraham: He put his faith in God and then showed it over and over by his ready obedience.

Joseph knew that his relationship with God rested on the bedrock of grace as a gift to be received by faith. And so, like Abraham, “he believed, hoping against hope … and was fully convinced that what [God] had promised he was also able to do” (Romans 4:18,21). By accepting the mystery of God’s plan for his life, Joseph advanced God’s saving plan for us all. In union with Mary’s fiat, Joseph’s “yes” of faith changed the world!

God has a plan for your life, too. It may seem humble and insignificant compared to Joseph’s, but don’t be fooled: Your response of faith really matters. You don’t know where your “yes” might lead and how God might use it. Ask Joseph to help you receive the grace your Father wants to give you. Then, like Joseph, go out in faith to be a “doer of the word.”

“Father, I believe your promises. Thank you for the gift of your Son and for the intercession of so many ancestors in faith. Holy Spirit, help my unbelief! I want to accept and act on all the grace you have for me.”

18 March 2010

18 Mar 2010, Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Reading I
Ex 32:7-14

The LORD said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,
sacrificing to it and crying out,
‘This is your God, O Israel,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’
The LORD said to Moses,
“I see how stiff-necked this people is.
Let me alone, then,
that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.
Then I will make of you a great nation.”
But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,
“Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people,
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt
with such great power and with so strong a hand?
Why should the Egyptians say,
‘With evil intent he brought them out,
that he might kill them in the mountains
and exterminate them from the face of the earth’?
Let your blazing wrath die down;
relent in punishing your people.
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel,
and how you swore to them by your own self, saying,
‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky;
and all this land that I promised,
I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’“
So the LORD relented in the punishment
he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Jn 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.
“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”

Meditation: John 5:31-47

If you were on trial, wouldn’t you want to have solid evidence in your favor?

Of course you would! Jesus, who is challenged here by the Jewish authorities, calls on the best possible witnesses to show that he is acting on God’s behalf. There is the testimony of John the Baptist, the testimony of his own teaching and miracles, and Scripture, whose every word testifies to him (John 5:39). Yet for all that, the religious leaders still won’t accept him. What more can Jesus do to convince them?

The answer, as we already know, is the most convincing proof Jesus can give: his own life, offered as a sacrifice. It’s the testimony of divine love, which fulfills all the laws that the Jews had honored and sought to fulfill for centuries.

In the Eucharist, we have absolute proof of Jesus’ commitment to us. But sometimes we still need to be convinced, especially when trials chip away at our hope. We need to remind ourselves that at every Communion, we receive the completion of all Jesus did and taught. The readings can give us Jesus’ words and reveal his life to us. The homily can explain his words and open our minds to his truth. During the prayers of the liturgy, we can ask him to intercede for us. But at Communion, we receive him.

What would you say to Jesus if you knew he was closer than your next breath? Well, that’s how close he is during Communion. He knows all your hopes and dreams. He knows all your challenges, too. And he wants to have a role to play in all of them. But most of all, he wants to convince you that his love is more real than anything else in this world. So take the time after Communion to sit with him. Try to feel his presence in you, just as you can feel the love of your closest friend. Tell him what’s on your heart, but also make sure you listen to what’s on his heart. Let his presence dispel your anxieties and give you a new vision for your life. Let him bear testimony to himself—right there in your heart!

“Lord, thank you for the awesome mystery of your presence in the Eucharist. May I never forget the price you paid for me and the love you are always ready to share with me!”

17 March 2010

17 Mar 2010, Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Reading I
Is 49:8-15

Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene.
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Jn 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews:
“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life,
so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.
Nor does the Father judge anyone,
but he has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.

“I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.”

Meditation: Isaiah 49:8-15

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. (Isaiah 49:15)

What a moving image of God and his love for us! Our God will never, ever forsake us. This would be amazing enough on its own, but let’s remember who we are: sinners who deserve condemnation, not mercy. Isn’t that wondrous? His love for us doesn’t change based on our behavior. No, he loves us simply because he made us and has bound himself to us eternally.

Think, too, about how different our love is when compared to God’s love. We can be happy one minute and angry the next. We love people more when they are kind to us, and we are indifferent to those who disregard us. And even with those we do love, there are some days when it is easier to love and some when it is harder.

God’s love is never subject to these kinds of ups and downs. He loves us when we fall on our faces. He loves us when we are not faithful to his commands. Quite frankly, he loves us when we are not very lovable!

This is not to say God doesn’t care about justice. The Israelites had tough times, but God never abandoned them. Even when he had to chastise them and let them face the consequences of their sins, he never gave up on them. He was always ready to take them back and start all over again. In some instances, God even used their misfortune to teach them and purify them all the more.

Why is God’s love so constant? Well, because he is God, of course. But also because he sees a much bigger picture than we do. God never takes his eyes off his goal for us: to make us into vessels of honor, fit to be filled with his own divine life. He can be patient with us because he has all eternity to work with us. He will never give up on his people!

“Father, please show me your love more deeply today. My idea of love can be so limited, so please break through the boundaries I have set up. I want nothing more, Father, than to be filled with your life.”