31 March 2011

31 Mar 2011, Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

Reading 1
Jer 7:23-28


Thus says the LORD:
This is what I commanded my people:
Listen to my voice;
then I will be your God and you shall be my people.
Walk in all the ways that I command you,
so that you may prosper.

But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.
From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day,
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.
When you speak all these words to them,
they will not listen to you either;
when you call to them, they will not answer you.
Say to them:
This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.
Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech.

Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Responsorial PsalmR. (8)


If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Gospel
Lk 11:14-23


Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,
and when the demon had gone out,
the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself,
how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Meditation: Luke 11:14-23


“It is by the finger of God that I drive out demons.” (Luke 11:20)


The crowds were amazed by the display of power that Jesus had just demonstrated. How could he drive out demons? Demons were strong, fearsome enemies of God and his people. So how could Jesus&mash;whom they thought to be just another man&mash;possibly overpower one of them? Surely Jesus was an agent of the devil. How else could he have so much power?

Can you imagine how absurd such an accusation must have sounded? Satan isn’t in the business of healing and restoring. He’s the one who divides and destroys. No, it had to be God’s power at work. And Jesus affirmed this when he told them: “If it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

The kingdom of God! The kingdom of One who is always good. The kingdom of One who created all things and who sustains all things in love. The kingdom of One who forgives, comforts, and redeems. This is the King. And his kingdom has come!

God is not engaged in a power struggle with the devil. He is above everything, so no opposition can pose a credible threat to him or his kingdom. His strength is absolute, his intentions are pure, and his desires for us are perfect. So why should he&mash;or any of his followers&mash; fear the devil? Remember: All his enemies, even Satan, cringe before him (Psalm 66:3).

Today’s passage talks about the ease with which we can be set free from the devil’s temptation. But there is one condition: We need to “gather” with Jesus. We need to be connected with him in prayer, and we need to be connected with each other in fellowship, love, and trust. Jesus promised that when two or more are gathered in his name, he is present in a powerful way (Matthew 18:19). So if you want to know the grace, the power, and the freedom of being in his kingdom, seek out your fellow citizens in your parish. Get to know them. Start to share your life with them. Pray for each other, and support each other. Who knows where God will lead you?

“Thank you, Jesus, for calling me into your kingdom! I am yours, Lord, and I know you will shield me and guide me today.”

30 March 2011

30 Mar 2011, Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Reading 1
Dt 4:1, 5-9


Moses spoke to the people and said:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees
as the LORD, my God, has commanded me,
that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy.
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?

“However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”

Ps 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20
Responsorial PsalmR. (12a)


Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
He spreads snow like wool;
frost he strews like ashes.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

Gospel
Mt 5:17-19


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.”

Meditation: Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9

“Do not let these things slip from your memory.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)


Don’t forget! Moses urged the Israelites as he stood on the threshold of the Promised Land. Don’t forget how you got here. God led you. He delivered you from slavery. And he sustained you in the desert. Remember these things as you go into this land of blessing, so that you can teach your children and grandchildren about the Lord.

Moses remembered. Joshua remembered. King David and Isaiah and Ezekiel and so many others remembered. How about you? Can you sit down and think about a few occasions when you had a strong sense of the presence of God or when you knew he was working powerfully in your life? Try to recall five situations like that. Maybe it was an answer to a desperate prayer. Maybe it was the birth of a child. Or maybe just a time when you felt loved by God and very close to him. Go ahead, take a minute or two to reflect.

Okay. Now that you’ve recalled a few instances like this, check yourself: Has your faith received a boost? Do you feel more confident or more peaceful? This is what God wants for all of us. He wants us to keep the memories of his past works fresh in our minds so that we can build a strong foundation of faith for our future.

In fact, these “landmark” occasions are just as vital to our faith as the doctrinal truths that we can find in our Bibles and catechisms. They show us that God is active in our lives. They show us that he delivers us from evil&mash;probably more often than we realize. They prove to us that he loves to bless us and give us his grace.

So try to incorporate these personal stories into the foundation of your faith, along with the truths and the Bible stories. Write them down in a journal, and keep the journal somewhere visible in your home or at work. Holding on to these events will help give you a better sense of God’s direction for your life. It will help you say “yes” to God and “no” to temptation. And even more important, it will spur you to look for God’s hand today and tomorrow and the next day.

“Lord, you are my Rock, the foundation of my life.”

29 March 2011

29 Mar 2011, Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Reading 1
Dn 3:25, 34-43


Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud:

“For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever,
or make void your covenant.
Do not take away your mercy from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your beloved,
Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,
To whom you promised to multiply their offspring
like the stars of heaven,
or the sand on the shore of the sea.
For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,
brought low everywhere in the world this day
because of our sins.
We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,
no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”

Ps 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
Responsorial PsalmR. (6a)


Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your kindness are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Gospel
Mt 18:21-35


Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Meditation: Matthew 18:21-35

“Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.” (Matthew 18:26)


A man struggling during hard economic times receives two envelopes in the mail. One envelope contains an offer to consolidate his debt into lower monthly payments. The other envelope contains notification that he has won ten million dollars in a lottery. He sighs, throws the lottery notification in the trash, and begins getting his paperwork ready for his loan modification.

Doesn’t this sound absurd? But this is essentially what the unmerciful servant does in today’s Gospel. When his master confronts him about the massive amount of money he owes, all he asks is for more time to pay back the debt. It doesn’t even dawn on him to ask for anything else. His imagination is too limited: Debts simply had to be paid. So it’s no wonder that he would apply this strict standard to a fellow servant who owed him a small amount of money. Rules are rules, and they must be followed!

Here’s some good news: We’ve won the lottery! In Christ, all of our sins are wiped away&mash;completely. When we come to him in repentance, he doesn’t just give us more time to make up for our sins. He doesn’t give us a list of suggestions and one more chance to redeem ourselves. No, he casts our sins away from us, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He washes away our failures and puts us on the path of freedom and victory. And he promises to walk with us, helping us along the way.

Take some time today to ponder your heavenly Father’s generosity. Let the Holy Spirit expand your imagination so that you can envision the possibility of complete forgiveness, the hope of every spiritual debt being canceled with no questions asked. Let this promise soak into your heart and transform the way you think. The more you understand God’s radical gift of mercy, the easier it will be for you to forgive the people around you. Don’t make the same mistake that the unmerciful servant made! Look to your merciful Father, and you will become merciful yourself.

“Father, shower me with your mercy today! Let me absorb deeply the reality of forgiveness you have given me, and help me to do the same for others.”

28 March 2011

28 Mar 2011, Monday of the Third Week of Lent

Reading 1
2 Kgs 5:1-15ab


Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram,
was highly esteemed and respected by his master,
for through him the LORD had brought victory to Aram.
But valiant as he was, the man was a leper.
Now the Arameans had captured in a raid on the land of Israel
a little girl, who became the servant of Naaman’s wife.
“If only my master would present himself to the prophet in Samaria,”
she said to her mistress, “he would cure him of his leprosy.”
Naaman went and told his lord
just what the slave girl from the land of Israel had said.
“Go,” said the king of Aram.
“I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”
So Naaman set out, taking along ten silver talents,
six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments.
To the king of Israel he brought the letter, which read:
“With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you,
that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

When he read the letter,
the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed:
“Am I a god with power over life and death,
that this man should send someone to me to be cured of leprosy?
Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!”
When Elisha, the man of God,
heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments,
he sent word to the king:
“Why have you torn your garments?
Let him come to me and find out
that there is a prophet in Israel.”

Naaman came with his horses and chariots
and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.
The prophet sent him the message:
“Go and wash seven times in the Jordan,
and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.”
But Naaman went away angry, saying,
“I thought that he would surely come out and stand there
to invoke the LORD his God,
and would move his hand over the spot,
and thus cure the leprosy.
Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar,
better than all the waters of Israel?
Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?”
With this, he turned about in anger and left.

But his servants came up and reasoned with him.
“My father,” they said,
“if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary,
would you not have done it?
All the more now, since he said to you,
‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.”
So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times
at the word of the man of God.
His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

He returned with his whole retinue to the man of God.
On his arrival he stood before him and said,
“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth,
except in Israel.”

Ps 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4
Responsorial PsalmR. (see 42:3)


Athirst is my soul for the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
As the hind longs for the running waters,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place.
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
Then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God!
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?

Gospel
Lk 4:24-30


Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth:
“Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel
in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.

Meditation: 2 Kings 5:1-15

“He returned … to the man of God.” (2 Kings 5:15)


Imagine a child whose parents tell him to do something a certain way, but he decides to do it his own way&mash;and with disastrous results. In a situation like this, good parents will encourage and reason with the child until he changes his mind. And then the boy is surprised at how successfully and effectively he completes the task. If only he had listened in the first place!

In a similar way, today’s story about Naaman shows us how God works to direct us away from relying on our own ideas and the ways of the world so that we can learn the blessings of doing things his way.

When Elisha told Naaman to do something that seemed ridiculous&mash;to wash seven times in the Jordan River&mash;Naaman “went away angry” (2 Kings 5:11). Why did he travel all this way just to be told to dunk himself in the paltry Jordan? He could have stayed home and enjoyed the lush, soothing waters of the rivers of Damascus. Surely his way was better than this “man of God” (5:8)!

Praise the Lord that Naaman’s servants acted as his conscience! They reasoned with him and persuaded him to change his mind. In a sense, they brought him to repentance, for Naaman humbled himself, turned back to the word of God, and was miraculously healed. This one choice led him into a deeper, more worshipful, and closer relationship with God.

God wants to guide our lives. Sometimes it’s in prayer, sometimes in Scripture or a homily. Sometimes it even comes through our spouse or a family member. No matter how you sense God’s direction, follow Naaman’s example. Even if you feel God nudging you in an unexpected direction, go ahead and test it out. If the result is positive, then go ahead and dive in. It may appear foolish at first, but in the end you will see that it is nothing less than the power of his Spirit to transform you and bring you to a deeper relationship with him.

“Jesus, help me to turn to you more fully today. Give me the grace to be changed by your word.”

26 March 2011

27 Mar 2011, Third Sunday of Lent

Reading 1
Ex 17:3-7


In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?”
So Moses cried out to the LORD,
“What shall I do with this people?
a little more and they will stone me!”
The LORD answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people,
along with some of the elders of Israel,
holding in your hand, as you go,
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink.”
This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah,
because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the LORD, saying,
“Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Responsorial PsalmR. (8)


If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2
Rom 5:1-2, 5-8


Brothers and sisters:
Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel
Jn 4:5-42 or 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42


Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned,
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another,
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment
and gathering crops for eternal life,
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;
others have done the work,
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

or

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.

“I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

“Give me a drink.” (John 4:7)

Today’s Gospel gives us a glimpse into the power of God’s mercy and love. When Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well, he brings up her past: She has had five husbands and is now living with another man out of wedlock. But he doesn’t bring this up to condemn her or make her feel guilty. Rather, he uses this intimate knowledge about her private life to reveal himself to her.

Jesus wants to prove to this woman that he is not just a Jew (John 4:9), not just a great man like Jacob (4:12), not even just a prophet (4:19). He is the Messiah and Savior of the world (4:29,42)! He wants to show her that nothing she has done could prevent him from offering her his living water.

What a beautiful image of the Sacrament of Reconciliation! This woman comes to Jesus not even knowing how burdened, thirsty, and alone she is, but she leaves excited, fulfilled, and surrounded by fellow believers. She knows that her sins are forgiven and her guilt removed. She has tasted the living water of his mercy, and her life is transformed! Going even further, she doesn’t keep this good news to herself. She goes back to her village and invites her neighbors to come meet Jesus for themselves.

This is what Confession is all about. It’s about coming to Jesus and letting him set us free. It’s about letting Jesus gently probe us and bring our sins into the light so that they can be washed away. It’s about experiencing a mercy that goes far beyond our expectations and being so transformed by it that we want to share it with everyone around us.

Brothers and sisters, we all need the grace of Reconciliation. We all need to meet Jesus and his limitless mercy. So no matter how serious your sin&mash;whether it be adultery, abortion, or even murder&mash;know that Jesus is waiting for you by the well, ready to give you living water. There truly is no unpardonable offense!

“Jesus, I need your living water. Come and fill me with your mercy!”

26 Mar 2011, Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading 1
Mi 7:14-15, 18-20


Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
That dwells apart in a woodland,
in the midst of Carmel.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead,
as in the days of old;
As in the days when you came from the land of Egypt,
show us wonderful signs.

Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our guilt?
You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;
You will show faithfulness to Jacob,
and grace to Abraham,
As you have sworn to our fathers
from days of old.

Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
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,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
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.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Gospel
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32


Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable.
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”

Meditation: Luke 15:1-3,11-32

“He became angry.” (Luke 15:28)


Why couldn’t the older brother in this parable share in his father’s joy? His little brother has come home safe and sound! True, the young man had wasted so much of his father’s money&mash;money that the older brother had helped earn. But still, this is a happy ending to a potentially tragic tale.

The older brother couldn’t see how good an ending it was. All he could see was how it affected him. After all, he was the one who stayed home and worked to build back up the value of the estate. He had to spend all his time untangling the knots caused by his younger brother’s indiscretions. If anyone deserved congratulations and a party, it was he.

It’s interesting that while this older brother had respected and obeyed his father, he was still blind to how good a father he had. He couldn’t understand why his father would throw a lavish celebration for this wastrel son because he couldn’t grasp how committed his father was to his family. He couldn’t see how much compassion and love his father had lavished on him, let alone his younger brother. And the sad result was that he had yet to learn some of the most important lessons his father wanted him to learn.

Jesus told this parable in response to some Pharisees who had been muttering against him for welcoming sinners. Through this story, he was inviting his detractors to understand how merciful his Father is. And he left the ending vague on purpose. How this parable will end is up to his hearers. Will the dutiful brother remain outside the family? Will Jesus’ critics embrace such a radical message of mercy? Will we?

Through this parable, Jesus is asking us to take one more step away from self-centeredness and one step closer to his Father’s heart of mercy. So take him up on his offer. In prayer today, ask God to give you a deeper glimpse into his heart. Ask him to help you embrace his mercy today&mash; and to show that mercy to one other person.

“Jesus, give me a heart that longs for both justice and mercy. Lead me into the joy of your Father who delights when the lost are found.”

25 March 2011

25 Mar 2011, Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Reading 1
Is 7:10-14; 8:10


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

Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11
Responsorial PsalmR. (8a and 9a)


Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O Lord, know.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Your justice I kept not hid within my heart;
your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of;
I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth
in the vast assembly.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 2
Heb 10:4-10


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

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

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

Gospel
Lk 1:26-38


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

Meditation: Luke 1:26-38


The Annunciation of the Lord


“Hail, favored one!” (Luke 1:28)

From a homily by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153):

Virgin, you have heard that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will be by the Holy Spirit and not by a man. The angel is waiting for your reply. It is time for him to return to the One who sent him. We, too, are waiting for this merciful word, my lady, we who are miserably weighed down under a sentence of condemnation.

The price of our salvation is being offered you. If you consent, we shall immediately be set free. We all have been made in the eternal Word of God, and look, we are dying (2 Corinthians 6:9). In your brief reply we shall be restored and so brought back to life.

Sorrowful Adam and his unhappy offspring, exiled from Paradise, implore you, kind Virgin, to give this answer. David asks it. Abraham asks it. All the other holy patriarchs, your very own fathers beg it of you, as do those now dwelling in the region of the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:1). For it the whole world is waiting, bowed down at your feet. And rightly so, because on your answer depends the comfort of the afflicted; the redemption of captives; the deliverance of the damned; the salvation of all the sons of Adam, your whole race.

So answer the angel quickly or rather, through the angel, answer God. Only say the word and receive the Word. Give yours and conceive God’s. Breathe one fleeting word and embrace the everlasting Word… .

Blessed Virgin, open your heart to faith, your lips to consent, and your womb to your Creator. Behold, the long-desired of all nations is standing at the door and knocking (Revelation 3:20). Oh, what if he should pass by because of your delay and, sorrowing, you should again have to seek him whom your soul loves (Song of Songs 3:1-4)? Get up, run, open!

“Behold,” she says, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

“Father, we praise you for sending your Son and setting us free! Be with us, as you were with Mary, so that we may be as willing as she was to say yes to your plan for our lives!”

24 March 2011

24 Mar 2011, Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading 1
Jer 17:5-10


Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.

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.

Gospel
Lk 16:19-31


Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied, ‘My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father’s house,
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said,
‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Meditation: Luke 16:19-31

“There was a rich man who … dined sumptuously each day.” (Luke 16:19)


How rich do you think this fellow was? We might assume that his dire fate resulted simply from an excess of wealth. But Jesus never mentioned how much he had, because that wasn’t actually the issue. The real problem was the gap between the rich man and Lazarus. This fellow had more than enough, yet Lazarus couldn’t even meet his basic needs. The rich man could have done something to help Lazarus, but he didn’t. And that’s why he ended up in “the netherworld” (Luke 16:23).

Many of us live in conditions that the rich man would envy. We’ve grown up in societies where it’s considered normal to have cars, houses, television sets, and food in abundance. Yet not too far away are people who consider themselves lucky to have one meal a day and a shack or tent to sleep in. How do we respond to this staggering inequality?

Today’s reading offers us the chance to examine our attitudes toward wealth and money. Following Jesus’ teaching, the church tells us that money isn’t something that’s exclusively ours to use as we please. Our possessions ultimately come from God, and he wants us to share them with his children, especially if we have more than we need. And sometimes, if the need is great enough, we should share even out of our necessity. Giving to those who are destitute is not just a matter of generosity or charity. It’s a matter of justice. It’s something we owe them because they are our brothers and sisters.

This story tells us that we can bring heaven a little closer to earth, even if it’s for just one person. When we alleviate someone’s suffering, we are helping to make God’s kingdom a reality, right here in the present. We become a sign of the way things will be in heaven, when every tear will be wiped away and everyone will be treated as equals&mash; cherished brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Lord, help me to see the Lazarus at my door&mash;the hungry, the poor, the sick, and the lonely. May I give them not just earthly bread but the bread of your presence as well.”

23 March 2011

23 Mar 2011, Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading 1
Jer 18:18-20


The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said,
“Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah.
It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests,
nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets.
And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue;
let us carefully note his every word.”

Heed me, O LORD,
and listen to what my adversaries say.
Must good be repaid with evil
that they should dig a pit to take my life?
Remember that I stood before you
to speak in their behalf,
to turn away your wrath from them.

Ps 31:5-6, 14, 15-16
Responsorial PsalmR. (17b)


Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
You will free me from the snare they set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
I hear the whispers of the crowd, that frighten me from every side,
as they consult together against me, plotting to take my life.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
But my trust is in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me
from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.

Gospel
Mt 20:17-28


As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves,
and said to them on the way,
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests
and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day.”

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her, “What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left,
this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Meditation: Jeremiah 18:18-20

“Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf.” (Jeremiah 18:20)


God sent Jeremiah to the people living in Judah, who had turned far from him. He called Jeremiah to urge the people away from worshipping other gods and to remind them that they belong to him alone. For his trouble, Jeremiah endured contempt and ridicule. He lost his family and friends. And he even suffered attempts on his life.

Treachery, deceit, and betrayal are painful goads that can provoke us to self-pity or a lust for revenge. But rather than follow these paths, Jeremiah entered into a series of intimate conversations with God (Jeremiah 12:1-17; 14:10-22; 17:12-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18). Sometimes he ranted. Sometimes he complained. But he stayed humble as he asked God for wisdom and strength. And God didn’t mind that Jeremiah was so blunt and open with him. He could tell that Jeremiah wasn’t turning away from him&mash;he just needed some answers (20:12).

This was the kind of relationship with the Lord that Jeremiah urged the people of Judah to pursue. He wanted them to be just as open and honest with God as he was&mash;and as obedient. He wanted their relationship to be fluid as well, with thoughts, desires, and promises flowing back and forth between God and themselves. This kind of relationship could sustain them in difficulties, allow them to withstand temptation, and encourage them to stand firm.

As with so many other Old Testament stories, the story of Jeremiah speaks to us today as well. It describes the kind of relationship that God wants to have with us: open, honest, fluid, and intimate. He wants us to feel comfortable telling him everything&mash;just as we should be willing to hear everything he has to say to us.

So don’t be afraid to be yourself with God. Share your ups and downs, your complaints, doubts, and grumbles, with him. He won’t be offended. Just be sure that you are open to hearing his answers! Your Father cares about every detail of your life. Even now, he is waiting to talk with you about everything and anything!

“Father, I want to talk to you as Jeremiah did. Let me hear your voice and experience your presence today.”

22 March 2011

22 Mar 2011, Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading 1
Is 1:10, 16-20


Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!

Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.

Come now, let us set things right,
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.
If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist,
the sword shall consume you:
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!

Ps 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23
Responsorial PsalmR. (23b)


To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.
I take from your house no bullock,
no goats out of your fold.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“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.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Gospel
Mt 23:1-12


Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Meditation: Matthew 23:1-12

“The greatest among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)


Today’s Gospel reading stands in direct contrast to the images of Jesus as the quintessential “Mister Nice Guy.” And that’s probably a good thing. Of course Jesus is filled with love, compassion, and mercy. But at the same time, he became man in order to do battle with the devil, to correct our mistaken views about who God is, and ultimately to die a violent, painful death so that we could be forgiven of our sins. It’s good to be reminded every now and then of how high the stakes were.

Jesus’ words about the hypocrisy of some of the religious leaders of his day reveal how easy it can be to become satisfied with external displays of religion and lose sight of the heart of our faith. Picture this scenario, for instance: On a given Sunday, you find yourself in a church filled with amazing beauty. The architectural design of the building is simply majestic, and the artwork inside is breathtaking. The priest’s vestments and the banners hanging around the church match perfectly and are stunning. No one in the choir sings off-key, and the harmonies are precise and blend beautifully with one another.

This picture may be very attractive, but is this the extent of the beauty Jesus is looking for from his church? Just what is beautiful in Jesus’ eyes?

St. Ambrose once said that the beauty of the church does not consist primarily in its good works or in its lavish rituals. Rather, the core beauty of the church consists in hearts that love Jesus. The beauty Jesus is looking for can be found in the quiet peace of a mother who nurses her baby in the middle of the night. It is found in a man who gives of his time and energy to look after his employees at work. It is found in a liturgy&mash;whether simple or elaborate&mash;that leads the congregation into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus. It is found in knowing Jesus as the source and power of all that is good&mash;and exalting him in our thoughts, words, and actions.

How beautiful are you?

“Jesus, give me a love for all that is good and pleasing to you. Create a clean heart in me, one that desires to serve and not to be served. Fill me with your love so that I may help bring people to you.”

21 March 2011

21 Mar 2011, Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading 1
Dn 9:4b-10


“Lord, great and awesome God,
you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you
and observe your commandments!
We have sinned, been wicked and done evil;
we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.
We have not obeyed your servants the prophets,
who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes,
our fathers, and all the people of the land.
Justice, O Lord, is on your side;
we are shamefaced even to this day:
we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem,
and all Israel, near and far,
in all the countries to which you have scattered them
because of their treachery toward you.
O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers,
for having sinned against you.
But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!
Yet we rebelled against you
and paid no heed to your command, O LORD, our God,
to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.”

Ps 79:8, 9, 11 and 13
Responsorial PsalmR. (see 103:10a)


Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Let the prisoners’ sighing come before you;
with your great power free those doomed to death.
Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
through all generations we will declare your praise.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.

Gospel
Lk 6:36-38


Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

Meditation: Daniel 9:4-10

“Great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you.” (Daniel 9:4)


Awesome … Merciful … Covenant. Doesn’t this sound like a strange way to begin a prayer of repentance? And yet here is Daniel, confidently proclaiming God’s love before he starts confessing his sins and the sins of his people!

How can Daniel be so certain that God will forgive him? Perhaps because he has history on his side. Time after time, God had shown Daniel how much he loved him. He provided for his swift ascension through the ranks of a gentile kingdom. He saved him in the lion’s den and from a conspiracy to have him killed. Clearly, God was committed to Daniel!

Daniel has no problem being honest about his sins and those of his people. He doesn’t keep anything a secret, even though he knows that justice isn’t exactly on his side (Daniel 9:7). Trusting that he is safe in God’s presence, he can come clean before the Lord because he has experienced God’s covenant of mercy over and over again.

How do you look at God? If you see him as critical and overbearing in his demands, you’ll either avoid coming to him altogether or you will be so bound in guilt that you’ll spend your whole prayer time confessing your sins and bemoaning your lack of faith.

Don’t fall into that trap! Your heavenly Father is too good, too generous, for that! Take Daniel as your model instead. Believe that the God you are confessing to is a loving, merciful Father. Recall his goodness to you over the years. Think about Jesus’ willingness to endure the cross just so that you could be redeemed. He wouldn’t go through all of that and then withhold his forgiveness, would he?

So go ahead and proclaim and trust in God’s mercy and love for you. Go ahead and confess your sins to him. You don’t have to fear any condemnation. Just keep Daniel’s words in the forefront of your mind, and you’ll do fine: “Yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness” (Daniel 9:9).

“Lord, your love for me is strong! Give me a humble and contrite heart. Help me lay my sins at your feet so that I can know true freedom.”

20 March 2011

20 Mar 2011, Second Sunday of Lent

Reading 1
Gn 12:1-4a


The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

“I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”

Abram went as the LORD directed him.

Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Responsorial PsalmR. (22)


Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Reading 2
2 Tm 1:8b-10


Beloved:
Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel.

Gospel
Mt 17:1-9


Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Meditation: Matthew 17:1-9

“It is good that we are here.” (Matthew 17:4)


How ironic! We first see Peter gushing over how good it was to witness Jesus’ transfiguration. How magnificent it must have been! How astounding! Wouldn’t you want to stay there and drink it all in? Wouldn’t you want to linger as long as possible, and maybe even ask Moses and Elijah a couple of questions about heaven?

But then at the very next moment, even as he is basking in the glow of such heavenly radiance, Peter is ready to get to work and build a monument to honor the event.

The problem is, he can’t have it both ways. Either he stays there beholding the glory of the Lord, or he goes down the mountain to get the supplies he needs to begin his construction project. He can’t take this transfigured trio with him, but he can’t build his monument without leaving them behind. What’s an apostle to do?

More to the point, what would you do? It can be very tempting, when we feel the presence of the Lord, to want to go out and begin serving him right away. In the initial enthusiasm after a retreat, perhaps, we eagerly sign up for a couple of ministries at our parish. While this is commendable, we may end up burning out quickly because we are not taking the time to be with the Lord and to “listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).

How important it is that we spend time in Jesus’ presence, immersing ourselves in his love and pondering his word in Scripture! And what better opportunity than today at Mass! It is here, where the Liturgy of the Word feeds into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, that you can hear God’s voice and behold his glory. His voice is veiled in the voice of the lectors and preacher, and his glory is veiled in the eucharistic bread and wine. But he is there, ready to fill you with everything you need. So ask him to open your eyes, and your heart will be changed!

“All praise and honor to you, Jesus! Come fill me with your presence. I want to see your face.”

19 March 2011

19 Mar 2011, Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Reading 1
2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16


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

Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29
Responsorial PsalmR. (37)


The son of David will live for ever.
The promises of the Lord I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness,
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. The son of David will live for ever.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.

Reading 2
Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22


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

Gospel
Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a


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

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

or

Lk 2:41-51a

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

Meditation: Matthew 1:16,18-21,24

St. Joseph


Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid. (Matthew 1:20)

Say you’re faced with a big decision&mash;whether to say yes to marriage or an adoption, to religious life, a career change, or a move. Or you’re wrestling with a relationship issue, like how to respond to a friend whose lifestyle goes against God’s commands. What do you do? Well, you reason it out. You seek counsel&mash; from Scripture, church teaching, and competent advisors. You pray for guidance. A lot. Maybe you ask others to pray too. And finally, you settle on a course of action.

But what if, after you had arrived at your carefully considered decision, God asked you to overturn it? Could you let it go? This is the hard choice that “righteous” Joseph faced.

Scripture doesn’t say much about Joseph, but that “righteous” speaks volumes. It means that he had set his heart on seeking God and doing his will. Undoubtedly, he had focused his life on the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord, your God” with your whole being and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). And so, faced with an unthinkable dilemma&mash;a fiancĂ©e who was beyond reproach but was pregnant&mash; Joseph struggled to find a solution that did right both by Mary and by the Mosaic law. A quiet divorce seemed the only way to go.

What courage it took to scrap this prayerful decision and say yes to an inscrutable plan! No wonder the angel’s first words to Joseph are “Do not be afraid”! Ignore the gossip surrounding Mary’s pregnancy. Accept the fact that you can’t penetrate God’s ways. Don’t worry about the job being too big for you. Joseph responded in faith. He surrendered his whole life to the demands of receiving God’s own Son into his home. And God, who is never outdone in generosity, rewarded him with a unique experience of what it means to know Emmanuel, “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Do you want to know God with you? Then follow Joseph. Put God first, and seek him with all your heart. Bring him your decisions and dilemmas; listen for his guidance. And don’t be afraid! Just as surely as he was with Joseph, God is with you too.

“Lord, I have so many plans and expectations for my life. I bring them all to you. Show me your way, Lord. I’m ready to hear and obey.”

18 March 2011

18 Mar 2011, Friday of the First Week of Lent

Reading 1
Ez 18:21-28


Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,
if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?
says the Lord GOD.
Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way
that he may live?

And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does,
can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
because he has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, he shall die.
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed,
does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8R
esponsorial PsalmR. (3)


If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the LORD
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
Let Israel wait for the LORD.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?

Gospel
Mt 5:20-26


Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you,
unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into 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 his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his 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.”

Meditation: Matthew 5:20-26

“Go first and be reconciled with your brother.” (Matthew 5:24)


Friendships are a lot like fine porcelain. They are a real treasure that can be easy to break, but difficult to mend.

We all know how painful it can be to experience a friend’s betrayal or rejection. It’s one of the most difficult things a person can endure. That helps explain why it can be hard to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply. In some cases, in fact, this failure to forgive can do more harm than the act that initially hurt us. If left alone, wounds like these have a tendency to fester and grow larger and larger.

This is one reason why Jesus commanded us to forgive. He knows how much damage unforgiveness can cause. Yet at the same time, he doesn’t underestimate how difficult this call can be. After all, Jesus himself endured the betrayal of a close friend. Imagine how he must have wept over Judas! Still, Jesus urges&mash;he even commands&mash;us to forgive, to be reconciled, and to let go of past hurts. He went so far as to say that the degree to which we can forgive one another is the degree to which we will know his Father’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:35).

There is simply no way around it. We have to forgive. It may sound too demanding, but that only happens when we lose sight of Jesus and the mercy he has had on us. He has a storehouse of love to make up for our lack. He can help us when our hearts are hard or bitter.

Oftentimes, forgiveness happens over time and in gradual layers&mash; and Jesus knows that. He is not as concerned with whether we have forgiven everyone completely as he is concerned that we keep our hearts soft and ask him for the grace to be a bit more merciful each day. So take one more step today toward being reconciled with your brothers and sisters! Let the love of Christ fill you so that you can give that same love and mercy to all the people in your life.

“Lord Jesus, only you can mend broken hearts and heal wounded souls. Make me whole by the power of your Spirit. Give me the grace to forgive.”

17 March 2011

17 Mar 2011, Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Reading 1
Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25


Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”

Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8
Responsorial PsalmR. (3a)


Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
and give thanks to your name.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
for you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Gospel
Mt 7:7-12


Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”

Meditation: Esther C:12,14-16, 23-25

“Manifest yourself in the time of our distress and give me courage.” (Esther C:23)


Queen Esther is a wonderful example of someone who heeded today’s Gospel message about asking, seeking, and knocking with confidence in God (Matthew 7:7-8). Esther’s enemy, Haman, has persuaded her husband the king to undertake a merciless pogrom of all the Jews in his realm. Hearing the news, Esther decides to plead for her people’s survival&mash;but she knows it’s a risky endeavor. So today’s passage gives us part of her prayer before she dares approach the king.

In her prayer, Esther expresses her certainty that God is in charge. All power derives from him, and he determines the ultimate outcome. She remembers how God has acted throughout Israel’s history, fulfilling his promises, blessing and protecting his people. She begs him to show himself again in this crisis.

Yet Esther knows she must do more than pray. She is in a unique position to do something as well. So Esther asks God for the courage she needs to do the right thing. She asks him to inspire her words. And she begs him to change the king’s heart so that he will not fulfill his intentions.

As the story unfolds, Esther does approach the king, the king changes his mind, Haman gets his due, and Esther is praised for her courage, her faith, and her trust. It’s the ultimate feel-good ending!

God is just as available to us, and he wants us to come to him both in times of stress and in our everyday challenges. He wants us to know that he loves us and that he is in charge. He wants us to trust that all things work for good for those who love him and believe in him. So let Esther’s prayer encourage you. Let her surrender to God inspire you to place your needs in his hands as well. Today in prayer, recall all that God has done for you in the past. Then boldly ask him to show himself in your current situation. Tell him that you will take the steps you need to so that his blessings can flow for you and your loved ones.

“Lord God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for bringing me to this moment. I lay before you all my concerns, and I ask for your help.”

16 March 2011

16 Mar 2011, Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Reading 1
Jon 3:1-10


The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’s bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish.”
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
Responsorial PsalmR. (19b)


A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Gospel
Lk 11:29-32


While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

Meditation: Jonah 3:1-10

“God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way.” (Jonah 3:10)


If you want proof that actions speak louder than words, you don’t have to look any farther than this passage from Jonah. God had sent Jonah to preach God’s judgment against the people of Nineveh. Upon hearing Jonah’s words, however, the king and all his subjects declared a fast of repentance. And seeing their response, God forgave the people and spared their city. The Ninevites didn’t simply say they were sorry; they took action to show their intention to change.

This passage gives us some insights into the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It shows us the value of “doing penance.” It shows that the sacrament is not really complete until we have done penance&mash;until we have shown the Lord that we do intend to change. It isn’t that God doubts our contrition. Rather, it’s that true contrition shows itself as we try to make amends and as we seek to avoid situations that lead us to sin.

Does this mean that we have to work hard to get ourselves forgiven? Well, yes and no. A better way to say it is that we need to respond when the Holy Spirit calls us to change. At its heart, conviction of sin and the desire for God’s forgiveness is the Spirit’s work. But that conviction is more like an invitation than a wave of a magic wand. We still need to own up to our sin, confess it to the Lord, and show him that we want to change.

So yes, it’s up to us to confess our sins and do penance. It’s up to us to change our actions so that they correspond to our words. But it’s also up to God to change our hearts and to pour out grace to help us make these changes. The good news is that he loves to do it! He wants to bring about a complete renovation in all of us. He wants to give us all a share in his power and his grace to begin a new life. All he asks is that we repent in word and in deed.

“Holy Spirit, pierce my heart so that my repentance bears fruit in action! I don’t want to say the right words; I want to be transformed as well.”

15 March 2011

15 Mar 2011, Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Reading 1
Is 55:10-11


Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Ps 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19
Responsorial PsalmR. (18b)


From all their distress God rescues the just.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
The LORD has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.

Gospel
Mt 6:7-15


Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

“If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Meditation: Matthew 6:7-15

“This is how you are to pray.” (Matthew 6:9)


Just where did Jesus come up with the Lord’s Prayer? Did it drop from heaven and tumble out of his mouth one day? Not exactly. As with everything else that Jesus said and did, this prayer passed through his humanity. It was the result of his experiences in the world coupled with his pure, uninterrupted union with his Father. We might say, in fact, that this is the only prayer that could come from the heart of someone who lived fully in this world and fully in the presence of God.

On the human level, we can imagine the influence that Mary and Joseph had in the development of this prayer. Who better to teach Jesus to pray, “Thy will be done” than the woman who said, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)? Who better to teach Jesus to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” than the carpenter who trusted in God’s provision enough to uproot his family first to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth? Surely all that back-and-forthing was not good for business!

These observations can remain interesting bits of historical speculation, but there’s more here than history. God wants us to see that just as Jesus’ prayer was rooted in his daily life, so can our prayer come from our hearts. He wants to show us his love and presence in our everyday lives so that we will spontaneously cry out the same words of petition and praise that Jesus said.

The Lord’s Prayer shows us that God wants to transform our lives, but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s miraculous, not magical. Transformation comes as we take our human efforts and mix them with faith in God’s mighty power. Today, try looking for two or three opportunities to exercise radical faith in God, the kind of faith that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had. Then check and see what kinds of prayers arise from your heart. No doubt, they will sound like the Our Father. And that means that God is at work, making you into Jesus’ own image and likeness.

“Jesus, thank you for teaching me to pray as you did. Teach me also to live as you did, so that my heart can become a mirror image of yours!”