28 February 2011

28 Feb 2011, Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Sir 17:20-24

To the penitent God provides a way back,
he encourages those who are losing hope
and has chosen for them the lot of truth.
Return to him and give up sin,
pray to the LORD and make your offenses few.
Turn again to the Most High and away from your sin,
hate intensely what he loathes,
and know the justice and judgments of God,
Stand firm in the way set before you,
in prayer to the Most High God.

Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High
in place of the living who offer their praise?
Dwell no longer in the error of the ungodly,
but offer your praise before death.
No more can the dead give praise
than those who have never lived;
You who are alive and well
shall praise and glorify God in his mercies.
How great the mercy of the LORD,
his forgiveness of those who return to him!

Ps 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7
Responsorial PsalmR. (11a)

Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
For this shall every faithful man pray to you
in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
they shall not reach him.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.

Mk 10:17-27

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”

Meditation: Mark 10:17-27

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” (Mark 10:21)

Did you catch that? A quick reading of the passage might have over-looked this little detail. “Jesus … loved him.” It’s only a few words, but it transforms the whole story. When he told the rich man: “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor … then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21), Jesus wasn’t demanding something of him. He was inviting him to be with him. Even as he demonstrated that the gospel can be a tough message to hear, he was calling the man to him in love.

Later, as Jesus looked around at his disciples, the same love burned in his heart. He longed for them to understand that salvation is impossible without the grace of God. He even went so far as to call them his “children” (Mark 10:24). So again, just as he was telling his disciples that following him isn’t easy, he was also encouraging them warmly, reminding them that “all things are possible for God” (10:27). God would be with them! He is full of grace and ready to help—always willing to encourage and strengthen.

Just as the rich man bowed down at Jesus’ feet, we too should bow in prayer. Why? Because God looks at us with the same heart of love. He will ask us to make changes in our lives so that we can follow him more closely, but his voice isn’t harsh or dictatorial. It’s kind and affectionate. He calls us his children. He is filled with love for us, and delights when we respond to his calling. Jesus knows how hard that call can be at times, but he promises that he will never ask us to go anywhere without him.

In prayer today, picture Jesus looking at you with love in his heart. Listen as he invites you to follow him wherever he goes. He may even point out a specific way to do that. If he does, don’t shrink back! Instead, ask him for the grace to obey. Ask him for an extra dose of divine power. Remember: God is right beside you, and all things are possible for him.

“Lord Jesus, I love you. Help me to be obedient as you call my name today. I believe that nothing is impossible for you!”

27 February 2011

27 Feb 2011, Sunday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Is 49:14-15

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.

Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Responsorial PsalmR. (6a)

Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God is my soul at rest;
from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God be at rest, my soul,
for from him comes my hope.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
With God is my safety and my glory,
he is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O my people!
Pour out your hearts before him.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.

Reading 2
1 Cor 4:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ
and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Now it is of course required of stewards
that they be found trustworthy.
It does not concern me in the least
that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;
I do not even pass judgment on myself;
I am not conscious of anything against me,
but I do not thereby stand acquitted;
the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time,
until the Lord comes,
for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive praise from God.

Mt 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Meditation: Matthew 6:24-34

“Do not worry about your life.” (Matthew 6:25)

Have you ever noticed how anxiety can be a trap? Anticipating some vague danger, we feel apprehensive, tense, uneasy. We may worry about sinning, about doing something wrong, or even about doing something imperfectly. Whenever we feel this way, Jesus says two things to us: “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect” and “Do not worry” (Matthew 5:48; 6:25).

Actually, these two commands belong together. Because we can’t become perfect ourselves, we have no choice but to surrender to Jesus and let him perfect us according to his wisdom and his timing. And that act of surrender frees us from worry. God has us in the palm of his hands, and he will work all things for our good so long as we try our best to love and honor him (Romans 8:28). All we have to do is live in the present, trying to stay close to our Father.

Many of us feel a great burden to care for our loved ones. We come up against the sad truth that we don’t have all it takes to do the job. We can’t shield them from every sin. We can’t prevent every sickness or injury. And we certainly can’t stop death. And so we start to worry.

How liberating, then, to know that people’s well-being doesn’t depend only on us! What a relief to know that God is at work in their lives—oftentimes invisibly—to provide for them and make up for what we lack. Anxiety doesn’t have to gnaw at us, draining us of our hope and depriving us of our joy. We are all children of the Father, and he will let no one slip through his hands.

Jesus faced many challenges, but he never let anxiety get the better of him. He simply put everything into his Father’s hands. We can do the same. Take a minute right now to identify the situations that trouble you the most. Then hand them over to the One who can handle them perfectly.

“Lord, teach me to rely on your love. May every trial become an opportunity to grow in faith and trust. May your love cast out all fear and anxiety!”

Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

(Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62:2-3,6-9; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-3)

1. In the first reading the Lord tells us, with very tender words, that he will never forsake us or forget us.” These words also remind us of the Lord’s words quoted in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.” How easy is it for you to lose sight of these words when you are experiencing a difficult situation?

2. In the responsorial psalm, the psalmist echoes the words of the first reading calling on us to “Trust in Him at all times” and “Pour out your hearts before Him.” What steps can you take to deepen your trust and confidence in the Lord’s care for you? When you come before the Lord in prayer, do you pour out your heart before him? If not, why not?

3. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that we should be regarded as “servants of Christ and stewards of his mysteries” and that we should be “found trustworthy.” What do you think these words mean? How “trustworthy” are you as a steward of the “mysteries” of God?

4. In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us not to worry about what we have and don’t have or what will happen in the future. Rather he says to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” What steps can you take to do this each day?

5. In the meditation, we hear these words: “Jesus faced many challenges, but he never let anxiety get the better of him. He simply put everything into his Father’s hands. We can do the same. Take a minute right now to identify the situations that trouble you the most. Then hand them over to the One who can handle them perfectly.” (Matthew 5:44-45). What situations in your life trouble you the most? What are the obstacles that keep you from truly handing them over “to the One who can handle them perfectly”?

6. Take some time to pray that you would surrender your deepest anxieties and worries to the Lord, trusting in his great love for you. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.

26 February 2011

26 Feb 2011, Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Sir 17:1-15

God from the earth created man,
and in his own image he made him.
He makes man return to earth again,
and endows him with a strength of his own.
Limited days of life he gives him,
with power over all things else on earth.
He puts the fear of him in all flesh,
and gives him rule over beasts and birds.
He created for them counsel, and a tongue and eyes and ears,
and an inventive heart,
and filled them with the discipline of understanding.
He created in them knowledge of the spirit;
With wisdom he fills their heart;
good and evil he shows them.
He put the fear of himself upon their hearts,
and showed them his mighty works,
That they might glory in the wonder of his deeds
and praise his holy name.
He has set before them knowledge,
a law of life as their inheritance;
An everlasting covenant he has made with them,
his justice and his judgments he has revealed to them.
His majestic glory their eyes beheld,
his glorious voice their ears heard.
He says to them, “Avoid all evil”;
each of them he gives precepts about his fellow men.
Their ways are ever known to him,
they cannot be hidden from his eyes.
Over every nation he places a ruler,
but God’s own portion is Israel.
All their actions are clear as the sun to him,
his eyes are ever upon their ways.

Ps 103:13-14, 15-16, 17-18
Responsorial PsalmR. (see 17)

The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him,
For he knows how we are formed;
he remembers that we are dust.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
Man’s days are like those of grass;
like a flower of the field he blooms;
The wind sweeps over him and he is gone,
and his place knows him no more.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
But the kindness of the LORD is from eternity
to eternity toward those who fear him,
And his justice toward children’s children
among those who keep his covenant.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.

Mk 10:13-16

People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them,
for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced the children and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

Meditation: Sirach 17:1-15

“He looks with favor upon their hearts, and shows them his glorious works, that they may describe the wonders of his deeds and praise his holy name.” (Sirach 17:7-8)

Isn’t it amazing how much God has left for us to discover about the world he created and the laws that govern it? There are countless plants and animals no one has even laid eyes on, let alone studied or catalogued. Using even the most powerful telescope, we are just beginning to discover the laws that govern the universe.

There is so much more to learn. There are so many more mysteries to solve. Exciting new theories about the universe are pro-posed and tested every year. New discoveries have led to life-saving advances in medicine and jaw-dropping innovations.

However, there are limits to how far we should go in our experimentation and exploration. Just because we can do something doesn’t always mean we should. So how do we go about figuring out what these limits are? By looking to the Scriptures and the teachings of the church for guidance.

But why should we have limits in the first place? Because of the way that scientific discovery can lead to arrogance and a misuse of God’s precious gifts to us. Think, for instance, of the cosmonauts who scoffed that they had been to “heaven” and hadn’t seen God there.

Take life issues as another example. We know that even if it became possible to create human life through a process like cloning, this is not a right that we as limited creatures have. Similarly, no good or desirable ends—such as cures for disabling diseases—can justify something as wrong as the destruction of human embryos created in God’s image.

God is not an enemy of human knowledge and exploration. The author of Sirach simply reminds us to observe the limits God has set. He urges us to make God a partner in our endeavors, not to block him out. And he calls us to give God glory and praise for the world he created— including the minds he has given us to grow in understanding it. We are stewards of the earth, not its lords.

“Father, I am in awe of the world you have created. Forgive our arrogance in forgetting the limits you have set for us.”

25 February 2011

25 Feb 2011, Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Sir 6:5-17

A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

Ps 119:12, 16, 18, 27, 34, 35
Responsorial PsalmR. (35a)

Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
In your statutes I will delight;
I will not forget your words.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Open my eyes, that I may consider
the wonders of your law.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Mk 10:1-12

Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan.
Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom,
he again taught them.
The Pharisees approached him and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”

Meditation: Mark 10:1-12

“They were testing him.” (Mark 10:2)

What a contrast! While the Pharisees wanted to know what they could get away with and still be obedient to the Law of Moses, Jesus was focusing on the best that God wanted for his people. The Pharisees’ questions and Jesus’ response show that when we stop short at what is simply permissible, we miss out on untold amounts of grace and blessing!

Legalism like this can blind us to the beauty of God’s intention for marriage. When God created us male and female and blessed the union of marriage, it was not merely to institutionalize a cultural practice. It was because he wanted his children to have a sense of the loving intimacy that exists within the Trinity. He wanted them to know the joy that comes from giving and receiving love.

Let’s be clear: Jesus is describing an ideal. Not all marriages live up to this ideal, and there is not a single husband and wife who live it out perfectly all the time. We all have been self-centered. We all have taken our spouse for granted at one time or another. Some of us have even betrayed our spouses, deeply wounding the ones who love us the most. But that doesn’t mean we should give up. It doesn’t mean we can’t all take steps toward the perfect union that Jesus wants for us. The nitty-gritty of dealing with our fallen nature may make love challenging, but not impossible.

Let’s not stop short at what we can get away with. Instead, let’s aim for the fullness of what God wants for us. If you are married, work every day to live in the union God intended for you and your spouse. Allow the grace of your vocation to cement your relationship and take it to even deeper levels. And rejoice in those moments when you get a glimpse into that union that Jesus describes! And if your marriage seems wounded or even broken, don’t give up. God still loves you dearly, and he still wants to give you good things. None of us is perfect, but Jesus is—and he wants to pour his perfect love on all of us.

“Lord, I want to experience the depth of your intention for my life! Help me not to stop short of giving my all to you and receiving everything you have to offer.”

24 February 2011

24 Feb 2011, Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Sir 5:1-8

Rely not on your wealth;
say not: “I have the power.”
Rely not on your strength
in following the desires of your heart.
Say not: “Who can prevail against me?”
or, “Who will subdue me for my deeds?”
for God will surely exact the punishment.
Say not: “I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?”
for the Most High bides his time.
Of forgiveness be not overconfident,
adding sin upon sin.
Say not: “Great is his mercy;
my many sins he will forgive.”
For mercy and anger alike are with him;
upon the wicked alights his wrath.
Delay not your conversion to the LORD,
put it not off from day to day.
For suddenly his wrath flames forth;
at the time of vengeance you will be destroyed.
Rely not upon deceitful wrath,
for it will be no help on the day of wrath.

Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
Responsorial PsalmR. (40:5a)

Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Mk 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid,
with what will you restore its flavor?
Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

Meditation: Sirach 5:1-8

“Delay not your conversion to the Lord.” (Sirach 5:8)

Have you ever heard of a “bucket list”? It’s a list of the things you want to do before you die, before you “kick the bucket.” We all have dreams we’d like to see happen before we go to the Lord—maybe take a trip around the world or a ride in a hot air balloon.

But guess what? God has his own “bucket list” for us. He has a plan for our lives, and he wants to see us fulfill it, because he knows it’s the real key to our happiness. His plan, in fact, will make us far happier than anything we might come up with ourselves.

That’s why it’s important to heed the call to conversion in today’s passage from Sirach—and to remember that conversion is not just a one-time experience. God’s

plan isn’t just that we experience his mercy and love once or occasionally. His plan is that we become changed more and more into his likeness so that we can experience his love on a deeper and deeper level—a love that heals all our wounds, fulfills all our hopes and dreams, and quenches our thirst for the world. This is what ongoing conversion is all about.

Ongoing conversion requires that we turn to God in prayer every day so that we can grow in our relationship with him. It is only through a consistent prayer life that we can come to understand not only God’s love for us but also his desires for our lives. Prayer teaches us that God wants only good things for us. It trains us to place our trust in him and in his perfect plan.

Brothers and sisters, our heavenly Father created us. He knows what we need. He knows what will make us happy. Every day he gives us an opportunity to experience a deep, abiding friendship with him—one that will last for all eternity. Our “bucket list” may contain some wonderful dreams, but none can compare to “what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9)!

“Father, give me the grace to come to you without excuses. I want to know you, and I want to know your hopes and dreams for me.”

23 February 2011

23 Feb 2011, Memorial of Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr

Reading 1
Sir 4:11-19

Wisdom breathes life into her children
and admonishes those who seek her.
He who loves her loves life;
those who seek her will be embraced by the Lord.
He who holds her fast inherits glory;
wherever he dwells, the LORD bestows blessings.
Those who serve her serve the Holy One;
those who love her the LORD loves.
He who obeys her judges nations;
he who hearkens to her dwells in her inmost chambers.
If one trusts her, he will possess her;
his descendants too will inherit her.
She walks with him as a stranger
and at first she puts him to the test;
Fear and dread she brings upon him
and tries him with her discipline
until she try him by her laws and trust his soul.
Then she comes back to bring him happiness
and reveal her secrets to them
and she will heap upon him
treasures of knowledge and an understanding of justice.
But if he fails her, she will abandon him
and deliver him into the hands of despoilers.

Ps 119:165, 168, 171, 172, 174, 175
Responsorial PsalmR. (165a)

O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
Those who love your law have great peace,
and for them there is no stumbling block.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
I keep your precepts and your decrees,
for all my ways are before you.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
My lips pour forth your praise,
because you teach me your statutes.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
May my tongue sing of your promise,
for all your commands are just.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
I long for your salvation, O LORD,
and your law is my delight.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
Let my soul live to praise you,
and may your ordinances help me.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.

Mk 9:38-40

John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Meditation: Sirach 4:11-19

“Wisdom instructs her children.” (Sirach 4:11)

Out of breath, the cartoon character has reached the top of the bare mountain peak. There a bearded sage sits cross-legged, waiting to answer his questions.

Isn’t it interesting that even comic strips portray our natural drive to seek out wisdom? Today’s reading from Sirach portrays this quest by describing wisdom as a person. The seeker must follow Lady Wisdom as one of her children. He or she must first be willing to embrace instruction and discipline from this Lady before finally finding happiness in learning her secrets.

For Sirach and other inspired authors of Scripture, this image of wisdom as a person was not a mere figure of speech. They knew that all wisdom ultimately has its source in God. So they pictured wisdom as one of God’s intimates—someone as close to him as his own breath (Sirach 24:3). And who is closer to God than his Son, Jesus, who not only offers wisdom to his followers, but is himself “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24)?

Take a minute to reflect on your view of wisdom. How would you define it? Why should you pursue it? More importantly, do you look to God for this wisdom—even concerning finances, career development, or parenting? Do you think of Jesus as embodying wisdom even on these practical issues? He does, and he’s more than willing to share his wisdom with us.

Try going through this passage verse by verse and asking yourself whether you experience wisdom as Sirach describes it. For example, verse 11 states that “Wisdom teaches her children.” Ask yourself: When have I sought God’s wisdom? What “help” did I receive as a result?

As you grow in your relationship with the Father, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will taste the life of wisdom for which you were born. You will become familiar with what the Scripture writers describe. Jesus himself is wisdom. The more you come to know him, the more your life will be characterized by his ways and his insights.

“Lord Jesus, you chose what was foolish in the eyes of the world but wise in the sight of God. By your grace, enable me to grow in your wisdom. Come, Wisdom of God, and enlighten my life.”

22 February 2011

22 Feb 2011, Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, apostle

Reading 1
1 Pt 5:1-4

I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Ps 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6
Responsorial PsalmR. (1)

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Mt 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Meditation: 1 Peter 5:1-4

The Chair of Peter

I exhort you … as a witness to the sufferings of Christ. (1 Peter 5:1)

From all his followers, Jesus called Peter to lead his church. And from the earliest times, the church has celebrated his choice in the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. Peter’s “chair” refers to his office as bishop of Rome and first head of the church. Originally, the feast was observed on January 18, the date when Peter is said to have held his first service with the believers in Rome. Later, the feast was moved to February 22, the date traditionally considered the anniversary of Peter’s proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah.

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Peter declared to Jesus (Matthew 16:16). The Father had revealed this to him, and Peter was unshakable in it. Therefore Jesus said, “You are Peter [the Greek word used here, petros, means “rock”], and upon this rock I will build my church” (16:18). Two thousand years later, we rejoice that the church built upon this rock endures today. From his seat as bishop of Rome, “Peter” continues to care for his flock in the person of the Holy Father.

Watching over the other apostles and all the members of the early church, Peter became a living example of the message he spoke (1 Peter 5:3). He did it willingly and eagerly, telling everyone about what he had seen from the day Jesus first called him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Peter proclaimed his own firsthand experience, not myths or lore passed from mouth to mouth but what he knew to be true because he lived it.

Jesus called Peter to minister to those whom the Father set around him. We have the same commission, each in our own way: to encourage, teach, and shepherd those around us. This is especially true of parents in the “mini-church” of their home and family, but the call also encompasses anyone we can build up through our testimony of God’s power at work in us. Each of us can give God’s flock a shepherd’s care by looking out for others, seeking the lost, and feeding the hungry!

“Jesus, I want to live and walk in faith, just as Peter did. Show me today who is hungry or wandering, and needs my care and attention.”

21 February 2011

21 Feb 2011, Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Sir 1:1-10

All wisdom comes from the LORD
and with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
Before all things else wisdom was created;
and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom
and her ways are everlasting.
To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?
Who knows her subtleties?
To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways ?
There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High
all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one,
seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion.
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends.

Ps 93:1ab, 1cd-2, 5
Responsorial PsalmR. (1a)

The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
The LORD is king, in splendor robed;
robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
And he has made the world firm,
not to be moved.
Your throne stands firm from of old;
from everlasting you are, O LORD.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed:
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, for length of days.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.

Mk 9:14-29

As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
Someone from the crowd answered him,
“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
He said to them in reply,
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”
He replied, “Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him,
“‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
“Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!”
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out.
He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

Meditation: Sirach 1:1-10

“Fear of the Lord warms the heart.” (Sirach 1:10)

The Book of Sirach comes out of the “wisdom” tradition that also gave us books like Proverbs and Job. This compilation was written in Hebrew by a fellow named Jesus ben Sirach around 200 b.c.and translated into Greek seventy years later by his grandson. In his introduction, he commends his grandfather not only for studying the law, the prophets, and the other sacred writings but also for trying to help other people understand them. And so he invites us to read the book “in a spirit of attentive good will” (Sirach Introduction, verse 15).

All wisdom has its source in God, who lavishes it on his friends. Like the other wisdom writers, Sirach tells us that “fear of the Lord” is the beginning and the end of human wisdom (Sirach 1:1,12).

Perhaps you were raised with the notion of God as a stern judge keeping careful watch, waiting to pounce on your slightest indiscretion and punish you severely. Who wouldn’t fear such a Lord, powerful enough to make it extremely uncomfortable for his subjects? But how could this kind of servile fear lead to “glory and splendor, gladness and a festive crown”? How could it “warm the heart, giving gladness and joy” (Sirach 1:9,10)?

No, reverence for the God revealed in Scripture is nothing like that. To fear God is to be in awe of his power and knowledge. To fear him is to bow before mysteries we can never comprehend, like the fact that God gave us freedom to choose, even though our free choices often have dire consequences for ourselves and others. To fear God is to dare to believe that he created each one of us to know, love, and serve him in this life and be happy with him forever.

God is so much greater than we could ever ask, and so much closer than we could ever imagine. He loves us so much that he has taken on our flesh, forgiven our sins, and defeated our most terrifying enemies—even the last enemy, death.

This is a God to love, a God to reverence, and a God to honor with our whole lives!

“Lord, I am in awe of your majesty, your power, and your holiness. Most of all, I am in awe of your love. Let that love empower me to please you in all my thoughts, words, and actions.”

20 February 2011

20 Feb 2011, Sunday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Lv 19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.”

Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
Responsorial PsalmR. (8a)

The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Reading 2
1 Cor 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself.
If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:
God catches the wise in their own ruses,
and again:
The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

Mt 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Meditation: Matthew 5:38-48

“Love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:44)

Can you picture getting to heaven, and the first person you meet is the one you liked least on earth? It’s possible. After all, God loves that person just as much as he loves you. Or what about all the evil characters you’ve read about in the Bible— people like Pharaoh, or Jezebel, or King Herod? They don’t fall outside the scope of God’s loving intentions either. What God wants for you is what he also wants for your aggravating neighbor, as well as history’s worst tyrants—that they be “perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Here’s another surprise: Your enemy can help you move toward that daunting goal of perfection. Jesus’ command to be perfect appears right after he explains how to treat those who hate us: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:44-45). In other words, if you want to be perfect, begin by loving your enemies.

Are you thinking, “This is too much”? Of course it is! It’s beyond human powers—or it would be, if Jesus hadn’t suffered and died for us.

Try to cooperate with the Lord today. Instead of harboring spiteful thoughts, say a short prayer for someone who provokes you. Think about whether there are other people you should be loving more than you do—not “enemies” exactly but people you may take for granted, look down on, or consider undeserving.

Start with those you live and work with. Pay attention to the thoughts that cross your mind as you read the newspaper or see a homeless person on the street. Ask God’s forgiveness when you discover your failures. Take advantage of every invitation to love, and the perfection of God will begin to shine out in you.

“Thank you, Father, for creating me for your love. Today, let me accept your transforming grace and take another step toward the perfection to which you are calling me.”

19 February 2011

19 Feb 2011, Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Heb 11:1-7

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God,
so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.
By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s.
Through this, he was attested to be righteous,
God bearing witness to his gifts,
and through this, though dead, he still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death,
and he was found no more because God had taken him.
Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him,
for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who seek him.
By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen,
with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household.
Through this, he condemned the world
and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.

Ps 145:2-3, 4-5, 10-11
Responsorial PsalmR. (see 1)

I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.

Mk 9:2-13

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Then they asked him,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things,
yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man
that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?
But I tell you that Elijah has come
and they did to him whatever they pleased,
as it is written of him.”

Meditation: Mark 9:2-13

“He hardly knew what to say.” (Mark 9:6)

Every person has a specific temperament that they tend to carry throughout life. For example, some rarely speak, while others think carefully before they talk. And then there are those people who talk a lot—and who don’t always think before they speak! Peter was certainly in this category. Having a powerful vision of Jesus at the transfiguration, Peter was awestruck; he didn’t know what to say. So, of course, he was the first one to speak up!

If you try to follow Peter’s life in the Gospels, you’ll find that his tendency to speak and act impulsively is consistent—and in a way, even endearing. When he throws down his nets and leaves the catch of a lifetime just to follow Jesus (Luke 5:1-11), we are moved by his humility and devotion. When he is the first disciple to identify Jesus as “the Messiah,” we are impressed—and then we become sympathetic when Jesus rebukes him for misunderstanding the sacrificial nature of his mission (Mark 8:27-33). And here, as Jesus is being transfigured, Peter is at it again. Beholding Jesus’ heavenly glory, Peter wrongly assumes once more that he knows what’s going on. He believes that Jesus’ mission is about to come to its fulfillment, so he proposes erecting a monument to mark so auspicious an occasion.

Like Peter, we all want to try our best to figure out God’s plan—and that is a good thing. But sometimes, the secret to a deeper spiritual life means listening and not rushing to action. So often, the world tells us that we should move quickly to fix or advance every situation that seems out of kilter in our lives. But if we do this, we risk taking action before listening for the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit— whether through prayer, in Scripture, or in the advice of a trusted brother or sister in Christ.

Over time, Peter developed an attitude of waiting, listening, and asking. Through trial and error, he learned how to quiet his heart and discern the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And that’s great news for us. Like Peter, we too can become better listeners, both to God and to other people. All it takes is practice.

“Jesus, open my ears and my heart. Help me to value listening and learning more than advising and acting. Infuse my words and actions with wisdom and holy timing.”

18 February 2011

18 Feb 2011, Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Gn 11:1-9

The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words.
While the people were migrating in the east,
they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.
They said to one another,
“Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.”
They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city
and a tower with its top in the sky,
and so make a name for ourselves;
otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower
that they had built.
Then the LORD said: “If now, while they are one people,
all speaking the same language,
they have started to do this,
nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.
Let us then go down and there confuse their language,
so that one will not understand what another says.”
Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth,
and they stopped building the city.
That is why it was called Babel,
because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world.
It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.

Ps 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15
Responsorial PsalmR. (12)

Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
The LORD brings to nought the plans of nations;
he foils the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
From his fixed throne he beholds
all who dwell on the earth,
He who fashioned the heart of each,
he who knows all their works.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Mk 8:34-9:1

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
What could one give in exchange for his life?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words
in this faithless and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of
when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

He also said to them,
“Amen, I say to you,
there are some standing here who will not taste death
until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.”

Meditation: Genesis 11:1-9

“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower … otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.” (Genesis 11:4)

The tower of Babel is one of the best-known Old Testament stories. We all remember the people who tried to build a tower as tall as the heavens, only to have God confuse their languages and scatter them throughout the world. But there’s one detail that often gets left out when we recall this story: their motivation for building that tower. Essentially, they wanted to make themselves great—and they all wanted to stay together.

We can understand why the first reason provoked God to intervene. From the very beginning, our greatest temptation has been to set our-selves up as rivals to God. But why would God object to their desire to be together?

For the answer, we have to go back to the story of creation. There, God told the first man and woman to be fruitful and multiply, and to conquer the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28). He wanted his people to be co-creators with him, spreading out to all the earth and bringing it under his dominion. But rather than take to the road in service of God, the builders in this story chose to stay put and establish a comfortable little enclave for themselves. They also sought to erect a monument to their ingenuity rather than spread the beauty and majesty of Yahweh throughout the world. So God took it upon himself to send them out. And he confused their languages to make sure they couldn’t come back together again.

The moral of this story still applies to us today. God is asking us to bring the power of his love and the grace of his Spirit to all the earth. He wants us to go out into the world and share his gospel, to work for peace and justice in our communities, and to reach out to the lonely and the hurting. It is tempting to content ourselves with the comforts of home and parish life. But the harvest is ready, and God is asking us to join him in the fields. How can you do that today?

“Father, give me a heart of service. Help me see how rewarding it is to be your disciple—so much more rewarding than building a world for myself.”

17 February 2011

17 Feb 2011, Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Gn 9:1-13

God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them:
“Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.
Dread fear of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth
and all the birds of the air,
upon all the creatures that move about on the ground
and all the fishes of the sea;
into your power they are delivered.
Every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat;
I give them all to you as I did the green plants.
Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.
For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting:
from every animal I will demand it,
and from one man in regard to his fellow man
I will demand an accounting for human life.

If anyone sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
For in the image of God
has man been made.

Be fertile, then, and multiply;
abound on earth and subdue it.”

God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
God added:
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.”

Ps 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 and 22-23
Responsorial PsalmR. (20b)

From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion,
and his praise, in Jerusalem,
When the peoples gather together,
and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.

Mk 8:27-33

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Meditation: Mark 8:27-33

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly.” (Mark 8:31)

Picture a young family: A child is born, and the parents are delighted-—even though their lives are about to get a lot more complicated. They will spend the next couple of decades pouring out love, time, money, and energy for their child, because they want to give him or her the very best they can. They will go to work every day, maybe even at multiple jobs, to make ends meet. They’ll teach their child about right and wrong. They’ll live on a budget. They’ll care for their child’s heart-aches, stomach aches, and head-aches. And because their child is so young, he or she will have no idea of all that the parents are sacrificing.

In a similar way, Jesus pours out his love for us every day, simply because we’re worth it to him. His entire life on earth, in fact, was an offering of love. It cost us nothing but cost him everything. Imagine what it took for the eternal Son of God to give up his heavenly throne and become a helpless baby. He willingly, even eagerly, subjected him-self to all the challenges of living as a human being in this fallen world: pain, hunger, and temptation. He had to learn how to walk and talk.

He had to deal with the pain and sadness of Joseph’s death. He had to work as a carpenter to support his mother and himself. And then he had to make the difficult decision to leave Mary alone while he went out preaching and teaching.

Imagine, also, how hard it must have been for Jesus to endure accusations and rejection from some of his own people—the very ones he had come to serve and redeem. And to top it all off, he was nailed to a cross and died an agonizing, humiliating death as a blasphemer and criminal. And he did all of this because he loves you.

In prayer today, take a long look at Jesus’ life of sacrifice. The cost of our salvation was very high, but Jesus was happy to pay it. Reflect on this love, and allow it to move your heart. Listen closely, and you’ll hear Jesus tell you: “You’re worth it. I love you.”

“Jesus, I am in awe of your love for me! You have captured my heart, and I worship you.”

16 February 2011

16 Feb 2011, Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Gn 8:6-13, 20-22

At the end of forty days Noah opened the hatch he had made in the ark,
and he sent out a raven,
to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.
It flew back and forth until the waters dried off from the earth.
Then he sent out a dove,
to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.
But the dove could find no place to alight and perch,
and it returned to him in the ark,
for there was water all over the earth.
Putting out his hand, he caught the dove
and drew it back to him inside the ark.
He waited seven days more and again sent the dove out from the ark.
In the evening the dove came back to him,
and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf!
So Noah knew that the waters had lessened on the earth.
He waited still another seven days
and then released the dove once more;
and this time it did not come back.

In the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life,
in the first month, on the first day of the month,
the water began to dry up on the earth.
Noah then removed the covering of the ark
and saw that the surface of the ground was drying up.

Noah built an altar to the LORD,
and choosing from every clean animal and every clean bird,
he offered burnt offerings on the altar.
When the LORD smelled the sweet odor, he said to himself:
“Never again will I doom the earth because of man
since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start;
nor will I ever again strike down all living beings, as I have done.
As long as the earth lasts,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
Summer and winter,
and day and night
shall not cease.”

Ps 116:12-13, 14-15, 18-19
Responsorial PsalmR. (17a)

To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
R. Alleluia.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
R. Alleluia.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
R. Alleluia.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
R. Alleluia.

Mk 8:22-26

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
“Do you see anything?”
Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”

Meditation: Mark 8:22-26

“He laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly.” (Mark 8:25)

Have you ever wondered why, after laying hands on the blind man the first time, Jesus asked him if he could see? Hadn’t Jesus already prayed over him? Why did this fellow’s healing require more than one step? Did something go wrong the first time?

Not exactly. This story shows us that sometimes things happen at once, and other times they don’t. This fellow was probably not the only one to experience gradual healing and deliverance. It’s just that his is the only story to make it into the Gospels.

How comforting to know that Jesus didn’t give up on the blind man! He didn’t reject him for having weak faith. And he certainly didn’t think that the man’s sins were an obstacle to his healing power. Instead, he persisted, gradually removing whatever was in the way of his full and complete restoration.

We can all relate to this story. We all know that there are times when Jesus takes away our burdens in an instant, but there are other times when our healing takes longer— sometimes a lot longer than we want.

Let’s take this story as a model for the spiritual healing we can receive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Have you ever approached this sacrament feeling as if you are confessing the same sins over and over again? Don’t let that discourage you! Instead, know that as you keep bringing your sins into the light, you are exposing yourself to more and more of God’s healing grace.

The next time you examine your conscience, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the deeper roots of your sins. Then be sure to bring these new insights to Confession. Let the Lord work more profoundly. Know that repeated exposure to the sacrament can soften your heart so that deeper healing can take place.

Jesus never gives up on you—so don’t you give up on yourself! He wants to see you healed. He is constantly at work peeling away layer after layer, touching you more and more deeply!

“Lord, I am still blind in so many ways. Help me not to get discouraged but to trust in your patient love. Come, Lord, and keep healing me!”

15 February 2011

15 Feb 2011, Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Gn 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10

When the LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth,
and how no desire that his heart conceived
was ever anything but evil,
he regretted that he had made man on the earth,
and his heart was grieved.

So the LORD said:
“I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created,
and not only the men,
but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air,
for I am sorry that I made them.”
But Noah found favor with the LORD.

Then the LORD said to Noah:
“Go into the ark, you and all your household,
for you alone in this age have I found to be truly just.
Of every clean animal, take with you seven pairs,
a male and its mate;
and of the unclean animals, one pair,
a male and its mate;
likewise, of every clean bird of the air, seven pairs,
a male and a female,
and of all the unclean birds, one pair,
a male and a female.
Thus you will keep their issue alive over all the earth.
Seven days from now I will bring rain down on the earth
for forty days and forty nights,
and so I will wipe out from the surface of the earth
every moving creature that I have made.”
Noah did just as the LORD had commanded him.

As soon as the seven days were over,
the waters of the flood came upon the earth.

Ps 29:1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9c-10
Responsorial PsalmR. (11b)

The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Mk 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Meditation: Mark 8:14-21

“Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened?” (Mark 8:17)

What a curious combination of questions! Jesus must see some kind of link between the disciples’ ability to understand his actions and the state of their hearts. Evidently, Jesus is saying that someone with a hardened heart will find it hard to understand what God is doing— even if it’s happening right in front of him!

But what does it mean to have a “hard” heart? Sometimes it means that we are insensitive—unable to be moved by the things that move God. It may mean that we are closed-minded, so we miss what God is doing because it doesn’t conform to our own expectations. Perhaps we’re harboring anger and resentment, and so we fail to under-stand why a relationship is foundering. Or we may be arrogant, standing in judgment of others and failing to understand their struggles.

So how can we soften our hearts so that we do understand? By letting God work in us! Each day in prayer, ask yourself: What is the state of my heart today? Do I feel love and compassion for those around me? Am I harboring anger or resentment because I haven’t forgiven someone? Am I open to the way God might act in my life, even if it isn’t how I think he should act?

If you feel as if your heart has become hardened, don’t waste any time! Go to the Lord in prayer and ask him to help you. Tell him that you want to surrender any pride, insensitivity, anger, or resentment that is getting in the way. Who knows? You may even need to for-give the Lord himself because he hasn’t done what you thought he should do in a certain situation. Go ahead and talk to Jesus as you would a close friend, telling him all that has kept you bound up. Ask him for a new heart and expect that he will give it to you.

What freedom we will experience as we trade our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh! And, how much more effective we will be in building God’s kingdom on earth!

“Lord, I want a heart softened by your love. I give you everything in me that has caused my heart to harden. Lord, give me your heart of love!”

14 February 2011

14 Feb 2011, Memorial of Saint Cyril, monk, and Saint Methodius, bishop

Reading 1
Gn 4:1-15, 25

The man had relations with his wife Eve,
and she conceived and bore Cain, saying,
“I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.”
Next she bore his brother Abel.
Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil.
In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD
from the fruit of the soil,
while Abel, for his part,
brought one of the best firstlings of his flock.
The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
but on Cain and his offering he did not.
Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen.
So the LORD said to Cain:
“Why are you so resentful and crestfallen.
If you do well, you can hold up your head;
but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.”
When they were in the field,
Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
He answered, “I do not know.
Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The LORD then said: “What have you done!
Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!
Therefore you shall be banned from the soil
that opened its mouth to receive
your brother’s blood from your hand.
If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce.
You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear.
Since you have now banished me from the soil,
and I must avoid your presence
and become a restless wanderer on the earth,
anyone may kill me at sight.”
“Not so!” the LORD said to him.
“If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.”
So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight.

Adam again had relations with his wife,
and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth.
“God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel,” she said,
“because Cain slew him.”

Ps 50:1 and 8, 16bc-17, 20-21
Responsorial PsalmR. (14a)

Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“You sit speaking against your brother;
against your mother’s son you spread rumors.
When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

Mk 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.

Meditation: Mark 8:11-13

“Why does this generation seek a sign?” (Mark 8:12)

We can easily understand why Jesus declined to honor the Pharisees’ request for a sign. Mark tells us right away what their motivation was—to test Jesus. For the most part, they already had their minds made up about him. If Jesus did per- form a miracle, they would accuse him of blasphemy. If he didn’t, they would say he was just another false prophet. Jesus wasn’t afraid of what they could do to him—but he knew that even the most amazing miracle he could perform wouldn’t change their opinion.

Still, we may want to give the Pharisees a little credit. They were actually on the defensive here. It was they who were being tested, not Jesus. If they were to accept his claims about himself, they could lose their elite social status as religious leaders. And worse, they would have to rethink their understanding of the Mosaic Law, which they had studied their entire lives. Jesus was asking something very difficult of the Pharisees, and for many of them, the risk was too great.

How about us? Everyone of us is regularly tested by God, as a necessary part of our growth into mature disciples. We can choose to see this testing as a good thing, or we can resist: “Lord, why am I facing this challenging road? Are you sure you want me to do this? Please send me one more sign to convince me that this is your will!” For us, just as for these Pharisees, stretching our faith muscles can hurt sometimes!

Perhaps the greatest thing we can ask for in our walk with the Lord is the grace of surrender. As difficult as it can be at times, there is also great comfort in being able to say: “Your will be done.” If we look at believers like Abraham, Peter, Mary, and Paul, we see that the reward for faithfulness to God’s will far outweighs the cost. Our sacrifices will seem light if we keep our eyes fixed on our goal: “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 3:14).

“Lord, I can’t see the road ahead, so please help me to trust you as I step out in faith. I believe that any step taken in faith is a step forward!”

12 February 2011

13 Feb 2011, Sunday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Sir 15:15-20

If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you;
if you trust in God, you too shall live;
he has set before you fire and water
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.
Immense is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.
The eyes of God are on those who fear him;
he understands man’s every deed.
No one does he command to act unjustly,
to none does he give license to sin.

Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
Responsorial PsalmR. (1b)

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they who observe his decrees,
who seek him with all their heart.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
You have commanded that your precepts
be diligently kept.
Oh, that I might be firm in the ways
of keeping your statutes!
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Be good to your servant, that I may live
and keep your words.
Open my eyes, that I may consider
the wonders of your law.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes,
that I may exactly observe them.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Reading 2
1 Cor 2:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We speak a wisdom to those who are mature,
not a wisdom of this age,
nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.
Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden,
which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,
and which none of the rulers of this age knew;
for, if they had known it,
they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written:
What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,
this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

Mt 5:17-37 or 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with brother
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to brother, ‘Raqa,’
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife -‑ unless the marriage is unlawful -‑
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.
But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,' and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”


Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with brother
will be liable to judgment.

“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.
But I say to you, do not swear at all.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”

Meditation: Matthew 5:17-37

“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

What a burden! Or at least that’s how Jesus’ words here sound at first. After all, we all know how rigorous the scribes and Pharisees were at keeping the Law of Moses. Do we have to do even better than them if we want to get into heaven?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, Jesus does have high expectations for us. He does want us to be holy as he is holy. But on the other hand, he has made it possible for us to attain this very high calling— through his death and resurrection. He has given us his own body and blood in the Eucharist. He has given us the gift of reconciliation. And even more, he has given us his own Holy Spirit.

This is why the gospel is such good news. Yes, the standards are high, but so too is the grace. It really is possible to live a life of righteousness and love. It really is possible to be heroes and heroines of Christ in the world!

Don’t be afraid to embrace your calling. The world is waiting for the witness that only you can give. It’s waiting for people who are willing and able to rise above the temptations that beset all of us. It’s waiting for men and women who manifest the joy, the confidence, and the freedom of children of God. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to try your best to surrender to the Spirit. Jesus will take care of the rest.

Jesus is waiting, too. He is waiting to shower you with all the blessings and grace he has in store for you. He is eager to pour his Spirit into you and to watch the kind of effect you have on the world around you. You really can change the world!

“Jesus, I surrender my life to you. Come and fill me with your Spirit. Lord, transform my heart so that I can live out your high and noble calling.”


Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

(Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119:1-2,4-5,17-18,33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37)

1. In the first reading, we hear these words: “The eyes of God are on those who fear him.” What do you believe it means to fear God? What role does godly fear play in how you live your life?

2. The first reading also speaks of the free will God has given men— to obey or disobey him, to trust him or reject him, to choose life or death, and to choose good or evil. Why do you think human free will is such an important part of God’s plan for us?

3. The responsorial psalm speaks of those who obey God’s commandments and seek the Lord with all their hearts. Why is seeking the Lord with all your heart so important in obeying God’s commandments? What steps can you take to seek the Lord more diligently and “with all your heart”?

4. The second reading reminds us that God has chosen to reveal his wisdom to us so we can speak it to others? Do you believe this? How well are you doing in speaking God’s wisdom to others? How can you do better?

5. In the Gospel, Jesus presents to his disciples (and to us) a set of commandments and standards that far exceed even the Ten Commandments. Do you believe that with God’s grace, the power of the Spirit, and the power of the cross and name of Jesus it is possible to live a life in accordance with these commandments and standards. Why or why not?

6. In the meditation, we hear these words: “Don’t be afraid to embrace your calling. The world is waiting for the witness that only you can give.” What is your reaction to these words from the meditation? In what ways is your life and words a witness for Jesus Christ? In what ways are you not a witness? What steps can you take to be a greater witness?

7. Take some time now to pray that you would be able to faithfully live out God’s call for your life. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point

12 Feb 2011, Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Gn 3:9-24

The LORD God called to Adam and asked him, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself.”
Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with meB
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman,
“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
On your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
He will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

To the woman he said:

“I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing;
in pain shall you bring forth children.
Yet your urge shall be for your husband,
and he shall be your master.”

To the man he said: “Because you listened to your wife
and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat,

“Cursed be the ground because of you!
In toil shall you eat its yield
all the days of your life.
Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you,
as you eat of the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
shall you get bread to eat,
Until you return to the ground,
from which you were taken;
For you are dirt,
and to dirt you shall return.”
The man called his wife Eve,
because she became the mother of all the living.

For the man and his wife the LORD God made leather garments,
with which he clothed them.
Then the LORD God said: “See! The man has become like one of us,
knowing what is good and what is evil!
Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand
to take fruit from the tree of life also,
and thus eat of it and live forever.”
The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden,
to till the ground from which he had been taken.
When he expelled the man,
he settled him east of the garden of Eden;
and he stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword,
to guard the way to the tree of life.

Ps 90:2, 3-4abc, 5-6, 12-13
Responsorial PsalmR. (1)

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Before the mountains were begotten
and the earth and the world were brought forth,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Mk 8:1-10

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat,
Jesus summoned the disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
because they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
If I send them away hungry to their homes,
they will collapse on the way,
and some of them have come a great distance.”
His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread
to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”
They replied, “Seven.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them,
and gave them to his disciples to distribute,
and they distributed them to the crowd.
They also had a few fish.
He said the blessing over them
and ordered them distributed also.
They ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets.
There were about four thousand people.

He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples
and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

Meditation: Genesis 3:9-24

“The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12)

“She made me do it!” “I was tricked!” “It’s not my fault!” Does this sound familiar? We find it so much easier to blame someone else, to make excuses for ourselves, and to lie rather than to own up to what we’ve done. Perhaps it’s because we don’t want to face our own weaknesses or deal head-on with the mess that our sin has caused.

Don’t you find it ironic that even though Jesus told us “the truth will set you free,” it can be excruciating to face the truth (John 8:32)? Perhaps the freedom we are looking for is not the freedom of love and surrender but the freedom to do whatever we want with no regard for the people we may hurt.

In today’s first reading, Adam and Eve’s disobedience—their “freedom”—cost them dearly. Overcome by fear and shame, they hid themselves from the One who loved them the most. Who knows? Perhaps they could have asked for mercy. But instead they hurled accusations at each other and at the serpent. And so, having broken their covenant with God, they were banished from the garden, and had to live with the sad consequences of their loss of faith.

But God didn’t give them up to their sin. They may not have asked for mercy, but he gave it to them anyway. He clothed them, cursed the serpent, and promised that one of their offspring would deliver them.

This is how merciful God is! Even when we aren’t looking for it, he gives it to us. Imagine how much more mercy, grace, and love we will find if we take the way of humility and not accusation. Like the young man in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, all we have to do is begin the journey back to God. If he spots us taking just one or two steps toward him, he will run to meet us, throw his arms around us, and welcome us home. He won’t even wait for us to recite all of our sins. His grace will already be flowing, healing our wounds and changing our hearts!

“Father, I am in awe of your mercy and your commitment to me. Help me look to you to receive grace and love today!”