29 February 2012

29 Feb 2012, Wednesday of the First Week in 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.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19

R. (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

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” (Jonah 3:1)

Jonah wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice. After all, spend­ing a few nights in a fish’s gut can be very persuasive. With a little imagi­nation, you can picture him trudging off in the direction of Nineveh— still dripping with seawater, but now determined to follow the leading of God.

For Jonah, it took radical mea­sures to convince him to respond to God’s call. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that for us! Instead, let’s get into the habit of trying to sense what God wants to say to us. It’s really not so hard. God has given all of us the gift of spiritual intuition. He wants to guide our lives. All we have to do is learn how to hear him.

Try to start small. For instance, if you get a sense that you should put aside a grumpy mood, maybe it is a word from the Lord. So ask for his grace to cheer up. If you get an inkling that you should join a minis­try in your parish, test it out. Maybe it’s God leading you. You’ve got to start somewhere! As you practice, you’ll get better at discerning God’s voice.

Give God a chance; believe that he wants to speak to you, and start to listen expectantly. The “word” that first came to Jonah was probably more like a sense in his heart than the sound of a human voice. It prob­ably wasn’t all that dramatic. But look at the fruit it ultimately bore! Well, you can expect to feel similar nudges throughout the day!

God’s word doesn’t come just through these inner senses, either. It can come through other people, as it did when Nathan spoke the word of God to David in 2 Samuel 12. It can come through Scripture, as it did for St. Augustine. It can even come through an enemy. The point is: God really wants to talk to us!

In your prayer every day, pay attention to the thoughts that come into your mind—especially the ones that fill you with love for the Lord or a desire to serve his people. Keep a journal of these thoughts, and see if you can detect a pattern to them over time. It just may be God talking to you!

“Speak, Lord, for I’m listening.”

28 February 2012

28 Feb 2012, 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.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19

R. (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

If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:15)

Someone causes you to be late for an important meeting. Someone accidentally dents your car while you are stopped at a traffic light. Your husband forgets your birthday. Your son talks back to you in a disrespect­ful manner. In situations like these, you might find it easy to forgive. After all, they are understandable, and no one was hurt too badly.

But what if you were sexu­ally abused as a child? What if you lived with a harsh parent who never showed you any affection? What if you discovered that your spouse had been cheating on you for years? How easy would it be then to form the three most powerful words: “I for­give you”?

We know that we must for-give—indeed, Jesus commands us to forgive—but sometimes we just can’t do it right away. In many cases, forgiveness is a process that calls for many little steps before we can take that big leap into mercy and par­don. And that’s okay, because Jesus knows our hearts, and he never expects us to do the impossible.

So what steps can we take? The first, and most important, is prayer. In the quiet of our hearts, we can open ourselves to Jesus’ presence and ask him to show us his love and grace. The second step is to ask Jesus just to make us willing to forgive. It is such a simple prayer, but it’s all the Lord needs to begin to heal our hurts. Over time, as we experience his healing love, we will find the ability to forgive.

We all know that the goal of our lives is to become as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). But what we need to know just as clearly is that in those particu­larly painful situations, forgiveness is a goal we hope to obtain, not a com­mand we must fulfill immediately. The most important thing is that we begin the journey—and that we try our best to stay on the path of forgiveness. Wherever you are on this journey, today is a great opportunity to take one more step. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, either. God is committed to working dramatically in us, no matter where we are.

“Jesus, give me a share in your own heart of mercy. Lord, teach me to forgive!”

27 February 2012

27 Feb 2012, Monday of the First Week of Lent

Reading 1 Lv 19:1-2, 11-18

The LORD said to Moses,
"Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

"You shall not steal.
You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another.
You shall not swear falsely by my name,
thus profaning the name of your God.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor.
You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.
You shall not curse the deaf,
or put a stumbling block in front of the blind,
but you shall fear your God.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.
Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty,
but judge your fellow men justly.
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake.
I am the LORD.

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

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15

R. (John 6:63b) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Gospel Mt 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."

Meditation: Matthew 25:31-46

Inherit the kingdom pre­pared for you.” (Matthew 25:34)

The sheep are puzzled. “What did we do to deserve such a won­derful thing as the kingdom?” they ask. “When did we ever see you hun­gry, thirsty, naked, sick, or in prison? When did we ever minister to your needs?” (Matthew 25:37-39).

Jesus’ answer is simple: “Do you remember all the times when you served the hungry? When you visited the sick in the hospital? When you donated to the food bank or deliv­ered clothes to the homeless shelter? Every time you did these things, you did it for me. So come in and receive the reward for all your works of lov­ing service.”

Imagine what it must feel like to hear Jesus tell you: “Come, enter the kingdom you’ve spent your life build­ing. You’ll feel right at home!”

The truth is, the kingdom that Jesus describes in this parable is very much like the kingdom that these “sheep” have been building. They have been laboring to create an envi­ronment where there is no more suffering, no more hunger or want, no more sadness or isolation. They have been pouring themselves out so that everyone is treated with the dig­nity and honor befitting a beloved child of God. Isn’t that what heaven is going to be like?

In that kingdom, there will be no more thirst because everyone will have access to clean water— and access to the Living Water of the Spirit. In heaven, every injustice will be wiped away. There will be no more ragged refugees driven from their homeland by violence or fam­ine. Everyone will be clothed in a garment of dignity perfectly fitted to his or her unique nature. No one will be wrongfully imprisoned or exiled , and those who were justly impris­oned will not be forsaken but will be forgiven and restored.

Isn’t this the life we all long for? Well, if we want it so badly, let’s go out and start building it! Let’s reach out our hands to each other. It may surprise us, but it shouldn’t—to find Jesus reaching his hands down to us and filling our efforts with his own divine power and grace. After all, he wants to see this kingdom even more than we do!

“Jesus, you promised to prepare a place for us in your kingdom. Help us prepare to be at home there by the way we cherish the least of your brothers and sisters.”

25 February 2012

26 Feb 2012, First Sunday of Lent

Reading 1 Gn 9:8-15

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

Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9.

R. (cf. 10) Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.
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. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.
Good and upright is the LORD,
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and he teaches the humble his way.
R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

Reading 2 1 Pt 3:18-22

Christ suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
who had once been disobedient
while God patiently waited in the days of Noah
during the building of the ark,
in which a few persons, eight in all,
were saved through water.
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.
It is not a removal of dirt from the body
but an appeal to God for a clear conscience,
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
who has gone into heaven
and is at the right hand of God,
with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Gospel Mk 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Meditation: 1 Peter 3:18-22

It is … an appeal to God for a clear conscience.” (1 Peter 3:21)

While St. Peter is describing the Sacrament of Baptism here, he could just as easily be talking about Reconciliation. For what could pos­sibly be a better way to experience a clean conscience than going to con­fession? When we confess our sins, we are forgiven—completely!

But as we all know, the real chal­lenge is keeping our consciences clear after we have received abso­lution. It’s one thing to experience God’s forgiveness, but what will change us so that we don’t end up confessing the same things over and over again?

You may be surprised to find that the answer lies—again—in confes­sion! This sacrament doesn’t just empty us of the past; it also fills us with God’s grace for the future. That’s because in confession we meet the One who came to pardon our sins and to transform us so that we can be holy as he is holy. In con­fession, Jesus lifts the weight of our past sins from our shoulders so that we can go out into the world free from guilt, inspired by grace to say an even firmer no to sin than before.

Of course, we all face temptation, just as Jesus did in today’s Gospel. The good news is that because Jesus triumphed in the wilderness, we can find victory as well. How? First, by trusting that we are never alone. Jesus is with us in every sit­uation. Second, by knowing that he has given us the grace of confes­sion not only to forgive us but also to strengthen us against temptation. He is always teaching us, urging us on, and inspiring us with his grace.

So make sure you celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent. And when you do, know that the grace of this sacrament is there both to cleanse you and to fill you with divine power. It is an ongo­ing grace that brings you closer to Jesus and strengthens you against temptation.

“Thank you, Lord, for all the grace that comes with confession! Give me more confidence in your mercy and love.”


Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

(Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15)

1. In the first reading, the story of God’s covenant promises to Noah reminds us that during Lent we celebrate the new Covenant that God has made with each of us through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. What are some parallels between God’s covenant with Noah and his New Covenant with us? What are some differences?

2. In the responsorial psalm, the psalmist reminds us of God’s compassion, love, kindness, and goodness. Why are these characteristics of God so important to keep in mind during this grace-filled season of Lent?

3. The second reading reminds us that Lent is a period of confidence and trust in God. We should be encouraged by the thought that “Jesus Christ has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God.” Everything we have comes from him, including our talents, and even our strength to persevere no matter what the circumstances. How often do you turn to the Lord during the day when faced with difficulties? What steps can you take to turn to the Lord more often each day during Lent?

4. The Gospel scene is the temptation in the desert, which opens the public life of Jesus. This reading in Mark declares, in a very understated manner, the great change in our lives that Christ introduced into the world. Unlike Adam, who fell, Christ triumphs over the power of Satan. This Gospel also heralds the possibility of our victory over Satan and temptation. Do you believe that in Christ, you too have the power to resist and/or overcome temptation? Why or why not? What concrete steps can you take during the day to help you in resisting and/or overcoming temptation?

5. The meditation ends with these words regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation: “know that the grace of this sacrament is there both to cleanse you and to fill you with divine power. It is an ongoing grace that brings you closer to Jesus and strengthens you against temptation.” In what ways, through this sacrament, have you experienced not only forgiveness, but also the strengthening of your relationship with Jesus and the grace and power to overcome temptations and sin patterns in your life?

6. Take some time now to pray that you would experience all the graces Jesus wants to pour out on you through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.

25 Feb 2012, Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Reading 1 Is 58:9b-14

Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
"Repairer of the breach," they shall call you,
"Restorer of ruined homesteads."

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
and the LORD's holy day honorable;
If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with maliceB
Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (11ab) Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

Gospel Lk 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."

Meditation: Luke 5:27-32

Follow me.” (Luke 5:27)

These two words changed every­thing for Levi, for Simon and Andrew, for Philip, for unnamed disciples—and for us. Jesus is not pleading or begging. He is inviting, earnestly and lovingly. Follow him, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Follow him, who is the light in the darkness, the spring of water that never fails, the One who promises to guide you always.

Follow me. Not because you’re par­ticularly good or talented or holy. According to Jewish law, Levi was “impure” because of his association with Gentiles. He was also proba­bly dishonest and greedy. Peter was impulsive, hotheaded, and stub­born. James and John wanted places of honor. All of the disciples had issues, but Jesus called them just the same—just as he is calling you.

Follow me. For those who respond, the glory of those two words is summed up in Peter’s first letter: Once you were no people, and you had not received mercy. But now you are God’s people, and you have received mercy. Once you were in darkness, and now you are in God’s wonderful light. You are chosen, royal, holy, a people belonging to God himself (1 Peter 2:9-10). That is who you are. That is how your heav­enly Father sees you.

Follow me. It’s true, you may not start out as an ideal disciple, but as you follow, your heart will begin to change. What you are now isn’t an obstacle to what you can become— not to the Lord. He has had a vision for your life from the moment you were conceived. And that vision is one of blessing, not of curse. It’s a vision of fullness, not emptiness. It’s a vision in which every part of your personality—all of your talents, your character traits, and even your unique quirks—is filled with his life and is used to build his kingdom.

We all know that following Jesus has its ups and downs. But no mat­ter what challenges we may face, we can always face them knowing that we belong to Jesus, and that he will never abandon us. For not only are we following Jesus; he is leading us, always calling us to his side with words of love and peace.

“Yes, Jesus! I will follow you. I want to walk in your light every day of my life. I trust that you will bring to fulfillment all of your great and gracious plans for my life.”

24 February 2012

24 Feb 2012, Friday after Ash Wednesday

Reading 1 Is 58:1-9a

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
"Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?"

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19

R. (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.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
"Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight."
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 Mt 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
"Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast."

Meditation: Isaiah 58:1-9

Why do we fast, and you do not see it?” (Isaiah 58:3)

Well-known film director Woody Allen once quipped that 90 percent of success is just showing up. Well, if that’s the case, then the other 10 percent must be absolutely crucial! There are many people who “just show up”—maybe at work, with their families, or in their neighbor­hoods—but don’t go much further, and the results are evident.

Think about the Israelites in today’s first reading. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it?” they asked the Lord. “Why do we afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” (Isaiah 58:3). They had met God’s requirements by deny­ing themselves, so they wondered why he hadn’t done his part and answered their requests. After all, they “showed up,” didn’t they? The answer was that something was missing from their sacrifice—their hearts! Just maybe it wasn’t God but Israel who needed to come around to a new way of thinking.

Whenever we set out to prac­tice self-denial, it’s natural to want to focus on ourselves. But fasting is really an invitation to put off self-concerns and personal pursuits, and to begin to pursue justice and peace. The kind of fasting the prophet advised is more than giving up food, drink, or pleasure. When we go out and serve others, we are fasting from “self” in the truest sense. We start to see that our comfort doesn’t matter so much, and we become hungry— hungry to do the will of God!

We typically don’t have far to go to find this kind of food. There are hundreds of ways we can give— and receive—a blessing. At home, we can take more time to listen to what family members are saying and to respond with compassion and sincerity. At work, we can put rela­tionships ahead of profit or reach out to a co-worker who is struggling. When we see a homeless person, we can offer them encouragement as well as practical help. Ask the Lord how you can make a difference. He wants you to step out and offer your gifts and talents—and as you do, he will also transform you into his image!

“Holy Spirit, I choose to join you in bringing the good news to those who are hurting. May I bring them your light of compassion and share with them the power of your gospel!”

23 February 2012

23 Feb 2012, Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Reading 1 Dt 30:15-20

Moses said to the people:
"Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you,
a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

R. (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 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised."

Then he said to all,
"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?"

Meditation: Luke 9:22-25

“If anyone wishest to come after me … ” (Luke 9:23)

Don’t you find it amazing that Jesus Christ, the all-holy Son of God, would give us, mere mortals, a choice? He won’t force us to follow him; he simply calls us and hopes we will respond.

But what is this choice? Is it a choice to live a life of continual suf­fering, of “taking up our cross” day after day by passively accept­ing whatever trials come our way? Not at all! The real choice is to fix our eyes on Jesus or to try to live life on our own. It’s a choice between actively believing in Jesus or pas­sively accepting a kind of “default” life in which we just go along with the rest of the world.

But if we want to choose Jesus over the default, it would be really helpful to understand who this Jesus is. That’s why today’s Gospel read­ing reveals Jesus to us and the call he is giving us. In fact, throughout this Lenten season, the Scripture readings will show us more and more about Jesus. They will show us that he is not just a good man whose example we should follow; he is the holy Son of God who became man so we could become sons and daughters of God. They will show us that he is not a God who tests our faith by making us suffer; he is the Lamb of God who laid down his life so that we could be transformed into his very image and likeness!

Seeing Jesus for who he is will also show us the difference between walking with the Lord and going it alone. If we choose Jesus every day, our lives will change—and dramatically. We won’t just be living as “mere mortals” anymore. We will find ourselves filled with the grace and power of Almighty God! We will be able to love the unlov­able, to forgive the unforgivable, and to overcome the insurmount­able. It may be costly. There may be challenges and difficulties along the way, but we can be confident that as we choose Jesus, our lives will be marked by confidence and hope.

“Lord Jesus, I choose to follow you today. I accept your promise of life. Lord, thank you for inviting me to be with you.”

22 Feb 2012, Ash Wednesday

Reading 1 Jl 2:12-18

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, "Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
'Where is their God?'"

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
and took pity on his people.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
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. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
"Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight."
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
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. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Reading 2 2 Cor 5:20-6:2

Brothers and sisters:
We are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

Gospel Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

"When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

"When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."

Meditation: Joel 2:12-18

Ash Wednesday

Let the bridegroom quit his room, and the bride her chamber. (Joel 2:16)

This is quite a striking image for the beginning of Lent! What could be so important? Why would Joel call newlyweds to leave their honey­moon suites and rush to the Temple for prayer? It seems that a plague of locusts was decimating the crops and bringing Israel to the brink of a national disaster. So in the face of such a calamity, Joel called every­one to join the priests in prayers of repentance and intercession.

Joel linked the locust plague to the people’s spiritual state. He saw that many had stopped follow­ing the Lord and were adopting the ways of the world. The locusts were not just a natural disaster; God was using them to wake his people up. And it worked: The people gath­ered in prayer and repentance. And in response, God restored them and gave them a bounteous harvest.

This Ash Wednesday, God is issu­ing a serious call to all of us. Will we allow him to search us and show us the areas in our lives that need to be cleansed? Will we gather in prayer and turn our hearts to the Lord more fully? Sin is a serious threat. Like a locust, it has the potential to destroy so much that we hold dear.

But there is hope! Just as he did for the people in Joel’s time, God stands ready this Lent to forgive us and restore us. As St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading, now is the time of salvation! Today, this very season, is a time of grace.

So heed Joel’s call! Join your brothers and sisters in prayer and fasting this Lent. Make this season a special time of prayer and devotion to the Lord. We can see measurable changes in our lives over the next six weeks if we come together and pray.

“Jesus, I want to be made whole this Lent. Thank you for this season of healing, restoration, and hope. Come, Lord, and restore me from the inside out.”

21 Feb 2012, Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jas 4:1-10

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly,
to spend it on your passions.
Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?
Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world
makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you suppose that the Scripture speaks without meaning when it says,
The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy?
But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says:
God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

So submit yourselves to God.
Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you of two minds.
Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning
and your joy into dejection.
Humble yourselves before the Lord
and he will exalt you.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 55:7-8, 9-10a, 10b-11a, 23

R. (23a) Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.
And I say, "Had I but wings like a dove,
I would fly away and be at rest.
Far away I would flee;
I would lodge in the wilderness."
R. Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.
"I would wait for him who saves me
from the violent storm and the tempest."
Engulf them, O Lord; divide their counsels.
R. Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.
In the city I see violence and strife,
day and night they prowl about upon its walls.
R. Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.
Cast your care upon the LORD,
and he will support you;
never will he permit the just man to be disturbed.
R. Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.

Gospel Mk 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
"The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise."
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
"What were you arguing about on the way?"
But they remained silent.
For they had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
"If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me."

Meditation: James 4:1-10

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Shrove is the past tense of the verb, to shrive, or to obtain absolution through sac­ramental confession and an act of penance. It got this name from the tradition of people going to Confession as a way of preparing for Lent.

Shrove Tuesday is also known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. It was seen as a final day of festive cele­bration before beginning a long sea­son of fasting and self-denial. Isn’t it ironic that on this day, we are expected both to indulge the flesh one last time … and then go to Confession for our self-indulgence?

Perhaps you might enjoy some of your favorite “fat food” today. It’s probably okay to break your diet just this once. But more critically, today is a grace-filled opportunity to ask ourselves: “How can I best use these next forty days to draw closer to Jesus?”

Today’s first reading can serve as a guide. We can decide how we are going to “resist the devil,” but we can also plan how we are going to “draw near to God” this Lent so that he can draw near to us (James 4:7,8). For in the final analysis, Lent is far less about giving some­thing up and far more about mak­ing ourselves more available to God. If all we do is avoid eating sweets or watching too much television— without taking the opportunity to seek out the Lord more deeply—we will have missed the primary pur­pose of this holy season.

So when you draw up your Lenten plan today, be sure to include increased time for prayer and Confession. Make it a point to fast not only from certain kinds of food but also from things like mood­iness, anger, and a sharp tongue. This can be a season of deep trans­formation for all of us if we make a plan to draw near to God.

“Lord, I want to know you more this Lent. Show me how to purify myself and draw closer to you this season.”

20 Feb 2012, Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jas 3:13-18

Who among you is wise and understanding?
Let him show his works by a good life
in the humility that comes from wisdom.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
do not boast and be false to the truth.
Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above
but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15

R. (9a) The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

Gospel Mk 9:14-29

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

Meditation: Mark 9:14-29

I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

This story of the healing of an epileptic demoniac is more than a story of a father trying to help his son. It’s a story about Jesus calling forth deeper faith.

When Jesus comes down the mountain, a crowd gathers around him, presumably waiting for him to do something spectacular. They had just seen his disciples fail in trying to cast out a demon; would Jesus fail as well? They had to find out if he had finally met his match. There doesn’t seem to be a desire for more teaching or greater holiness—just the continuation of a controversy.

And the crowd got their wish. Jesus did indeed cast out the demon and heal the afflicted boy. But this amazing deed of power wasn’t what Jesus was focused on. In fact, the healing episode seems to be a mere afterthought tacked on to the real story—that of the boy’s father and Jesus’ words to his disciples.

“I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). It is in situations like this that faith is really tested—times when all our comfortable theoriz­ing is challenged, and we are called to trust in God’s goodness in the face of a crisis. Without a doubt, this man’s faith deepened dramati­cally when he saw Jesus deliver his son. But what if the boy did not get healed? That’s a good question for us to ask—especially in those times when our prayers for healing or help seem to go unanswered. Can we still trust in Jesus when we see no change in our situation? Is our faith based on whether we get what we want? Or is it based on trust, love, and surrender?”

Never one to miss an oppor­tunity, Jesus also used this situa­tion to teach his disciples that faith is less a matter of performing mir­acles and more a matter of prayer (Mark 9:28-29). He knew that if the disciples were ever going to take his gospel into the world, they had to learn how to stay close to God. The lesson for them applies to us as well. The more proficient we are in prayer, the more fully we can become agents of Jesus’ healing power.

“Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief! I freely invite you into every relationship and situation that is burdening me right now.”

19 February 2012

19 Feb 2012, Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Is 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25

Thus says the LORD:
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
The people I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.
Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob,
for you grew weary of me, O Israel.
You burdened me with your sins,
and wearied me with your crimes.
It is I, I, who wipe out,
for my own sake, your offenses;
your sins I remember no more.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 41:2-3, 4-5, 13-14

R. (5b) Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.
Blessed is the one who has regard for the lowly and the poor;
in the day of misfortune the LORD will deliver him.
The LORD will keep and preserve him;
and make him blessed on earth,
and not give him over to the will of his enemies.
R. Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.
The LORD will help him on his sickbed,
he will take away all his ailment when he is ill.
Once I said, "O LORD, have pity on me;
heal me, though I have sinned against you."
R. Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.
But because of my integrity you sustain me
and let me stand before you forever.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from all eternity. Amen. Amen.
R. Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.

Reading 2 2 Cor 1:18-22

Brothers and sisters:
As God is faithful,
our word to you is not "yes" and "no."
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ,
who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me,
was not "yes" and "no, " but "yes" has been in him.
For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him;
therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.
But the one who gives us security with you in Christ
and who anointed us is God;
he has also put his seal upon us
and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

Gospel Mk 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
"Child, your sins are forgiven."
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
"Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?"
Jesus immediately knew in his mind
what they were thinking to themselves,
so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
'Your sins are forgiven,'
or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk?'
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth"
-he said to the paralytic,
"I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home."
He rose, picked up his mat at once,
and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded
and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

Meditation: Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:5)

Did you catch that? Jesus for­gave this man and healed his paral­ysis because he saw the faith of his friends! It wasn’t the paralyzed man’s faith that moved him, it was his friends’ faith. These four men stood with their friend and were con­vinced that if they could just get him to Jesus, he could be healed. Even if it meant tearing up the roof, they loved their friend enough—and they believed in Jesus enough—to do it.

What a moving illustration of true brotherhood! While the paralyzed man doubtless had faith himself, it was his four friends who actually got him to Jesus. If it weren’t for them, he would never have been able to walk—or known Jesus’ forgiveness.

Jesus never intended the Christian life to be a solitary journey. On the contrary, we are stronger when we are surrounded and supported by brothers and sisters in the faith. Where the world tells us to be inde­pendent and self-reliant, Jesus tells us to lean on each other—and to let others lean on us. That’s probably why he sent his disciples to preach two by two. He knew they needed to balance each other out, with one helping the other in moments of weakness or tiredness. He knew they needed each other so that they would not fall to temptations of pride, or give up in the face of oppo­sition or hardship.

What about you? Do you have brothers and sisters to help bring you to Jesus? Are there people whom you would go out of your way to help in their faith? It’s always a good idea to reach out to one or two peo­ple in your parish and try to build a friendship with them based on your faith. God wants to give us compan­ions along the way. May we all be open to so generous a gift, the gift of one another.

“Thank you, Lord, for the gift of friendship! You promised that you would be with us always. What a treasure that you fulfill that promise through faithful friends!”

18 February 2012

18 Feb 2012, Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jas 3:1-10

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters,
for you realize that we will be judged more strictly,
for we all fall short in many respects.
If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man,
able to bridle the whole body also.
If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us,
we also guide their whole bodies.
It is the same with ships:
even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds,
they are steered by a very small rudder
wherever the pilot's inclination wishes.
In the same way the tongue is a small member
and yet has great pretensions.

Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze.
The tongue is also a fire.
It exists among our members as a world of malice,
defiling the whole body
and setting the entire course of our lives on fire,
itself set on fire by Gehenna.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature,
can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species,
but no man can tame the tongue.
It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless the Lord and Father,
and with it we curse men
who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers and sisters, this need not be so.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 12:2-3, 4-5, 7-8

R. (8a) You will protect us, Lord.
Help, O LORD! for no one now is dutiful;
faithfulness has vanished from among the children of men.
Everyone speaks falsehood to his neighbor;
with smooth lips they speak, and double heart.
R. You will protect us, Lord.
May the LORD destroy all smooth lips,
every boastful tongue,
Those who say, "We are heroes with our tongues;
our lips are our own; who is lord over us?"
R. You will protect us, Lord.
The promises of the LORD are sure,
like tried silver, freed from dross, sevenfold refined.
You, O LORD, will keep us
and preserve us always from this generation.
R. You will protect us, Lord.

Gospel Mk 9:2-13

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

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

Meditation: Mark 9:2-13

We all fall short in many respects.” (James 3:2)

Peter sure put his foot in his mouth sometimes. Offering to set up tents for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses? It seems Peter needed to say something, but wasn’t sure what. You can just imagine the Father looking down on him with a know­ing smile as he said: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7) Stop babbling about tents and memorials, Peter, and let Jesus explain what this all means!

This story about Peter touches a chord in our hearts because we all know how prone we are to speak first and think later. We can all remember times when we’ve said the wrong thing, even when we’re trying to share the gospel. It’s just as James says: Our tongue can really get us into trouble (James 3:8).

So what do we do? Do we “tame” the tongue by keeping our mouths shut? At least that way we wouldn’t end up saying the wrong thing. But what would happen to our family if we stayed quiet? Who would teach our children about God? What would happen to our culture if we stopped trying to proclaim the gos­pel, flawed though our attempts may be?

Don’t stop! Keep moving for­ward, and keep growing in wisdom and prudence. The sower in Jesus’ parable must have felt discouraged (Luke 8:4-15). So many of his seeds had no chance to bear any fruit— trampled on the pathway, choked by weeds, parched in shallow soil. But he didn’t dwell on his failures. He kept sowing, and as he sowed, he discovered the best places to plant the seeds. Because he put into prac­tice what he learned, his seeds bore more fruit!

Today, imagine God smiling down at you just as he might have smiled at Peter. With time and prac­tice and patience, you can mature in your faith just as Peter did. Don’t let your missteps stop you. You may be a child of God, but that doesn’t mean that you’re perfect! Allow yourself to laugh at your errors, and then try again.

“Heavenly Father, help me not to be so hard on myself. I want to be able to start over when I make a mistake! Help me to see how you look at me: as a loving Father looks at his growing child.”

17 February 2012

17 Feb 2012, Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jas 2:14-24, 26

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear
and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to them,
"Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,"
but you do not give them the necessities of the body,
what good is it?
So also faith of itself,
if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say,
"You have faith and I have works."
Demonstrate your faith to me without works,
and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
You believe that God is one.
You do well.
Even the demons believe that and tremble.
Do you want proof, you ignoramus,
that faith without works is useless?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works
when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
You see that faith was active along with his works,
and faith was completed by the works.
Thus the Scripture was fulfilled that says,
Abraham believed God,
and it was credited to him as righteousness,
and he was called the friend of God.
See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
For just as a body without a spirit is dead,
so also faith without works is dead.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (see 1b) Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord's commands.
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord's commands.
Wealth and riches shall be in his house;
his generosity shall endure forever.
Light shines through the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious and merciful and just.
R. Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord's commands.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice;
He shall never be moved;
the just man shall be in everlasting remembrance.
R. Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord's commands.

Gospel Mk 8:34?9:1

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

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

Meditation: Mark 8:34–9:1

Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.” (Mark 8:35)

Jesus’ words about saving and losing our lives would inspire only fear in us if all we looked at were pain and loss. Praise God, then, that he wants to open our eyes to see a fuller picture of his plan of sal­vation. Jesus didn’t die just so we would lose our old lives. He died so that we could receive his risen life! We can look upon the cross with awe, wonder, and anticipation of the good things God promises. Because Jesus died on the cross, our hearts can be cleansed and our minds made anew.

Jesus invites us to new life, not just in heaven someday, but here and now. We can exhaust ourselves by giving in to fallen desires and chasing the things of this world. But if we do, we risk losing the treasure of the life God intended for us. As we come to “deny” ourselves and turn our lives over to Jesus, we are given a new and better existence.

Jesus isn’t asking us to deny our­selves every pleasure—that’s not the point. He wants us to deny the sinful drives within us that seek to control our lives. He wants us to turn our hearts to God so that the Holy Spirit can empower us to live according to the new life we received at baptism. Independence, unforgiveness, legalism, worldly approval, self-glorification, perfec­tionism: They only lead to unhappi­ness. These are the things that Jesus came to put to death in us.

Yes, there is loss through the cross. But what do we lose? Slavery to sin. And what do we gain? A cleansed conscience, freedom from patterns of sin, intimacy with God, and a rediscovery of who we are in God’s sight! Jesus longs to see us stop thinking we must gain vic­tory on our own over the things that threaten our spiritual well-being. He longs to see us surrender our self-sufficiency so that we can receive the power of his Spirit to live a new life. Let’s look to him for our heal­ing and deliverance.

“Father, show me what I must lay down at the foot of the cross so that I can become the person you intended me to be. I want to trust Jesus’ promise that whoever loses his life will save it.”

16 February 2012

16 Feb 2012, Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jas 2:1-9

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person with shabby clothes also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, "Sit here, please,"
while you say to the poor one, "Stand there," or "Sit at my feet,"
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?
But you dishonored the poor.
Are not the rich oppressing you?
And do they themselves not haul you off to court?
Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?
However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
But if you show partiality, you commit sin,
and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
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. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
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. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Gospel Mk 8:27-33

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

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

Meditation: James 2:1-9

Show no partiality.” (James 2:1)

One man with gold rings and fine clothes and another man with shabby clothes. You can easily pic­ture these two people in your mind, because you’ve probably seen them in your own church. And we all know that social distinctions like rich versus poor do not disappear completely in church. The poor and homeless will often sit in the back, while the wealthy and more com­fortable will sit in the front, often walking by their less fortunate brothers and sisters without giv­ing them any thought. How can we break down such barriers?

As we know, some divisions can’t easily be overcome. Some people are too afraid or ashamed to ask for help, and those they might ask are too nervous to reach out a hand of compassion. But that’s not the main point. James isn’t talking about making our churches into utopias. He doesn’t expect every wealthy person to give away all their riches. At the core of today’s passage is a call to something everyone can do: pay attention to one another!

Part of paying attention to the needy certainly can mean giving of our resources. If we say: “God bless you,” yet do nothing to relieve their suffering, we’re helping very little (James 2:16). At the same time, if we simply hand them a dollar bill and never speak to them or look them in the eye, we’re ignoring one of their most basic needs—to be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve as chil­dren of God. Jesus could have fixed everyone’s problems instantly, but he always listened to people first. Simply being present was a big part of his ministry.

Think about how you are pres­ent to others—not just those you are comfortable with but those you tend to shy away from. That could include the poor, but also those who look and even think differently from you, like a member of a dif­ferent political party or a different religion. Can you see that person as Jesus does? Ask the Lord for the wisdom and understanding to lis­ten to that person. You may end up being touched deeply.

“Lord, you know how I value some people more than others. Help me to treat everyone as respectfully as I can. Teach me to see your reflection in all people.”

15 February 2012

15 Feb 2012, Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jas 1:19-27

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters:
everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger
for anger does not accomplish
the righteousness of God.
Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess
and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer,
he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror.
He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets
what he looked like.
But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres,
and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts;
such a one shall be blessed in what he does.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue
but deceives his heart, his religion is vain.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5

R. (1b) Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?
He who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
By whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?

Gospel Mk 8:22-26

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

Meditation: Mark 8:22-26

I see people looking like trees and walking.” (Mark 8:24)

The Gospels record many instan­taneous miracles, but the healing recounted here occurs in stages. Friends bring a blind man to Jesus, who takes him by the hand and leads him away from the crowd. He puts saliva on the man’s eyes and asks what is happening to him. “Can you see anything?” According to one translation, this man “was beginning to see,” but the people he saw were shadowy forms moving about. Jesus touched his eyes again, and then he could see clearly.

This is a wonderful model for spiritual growth! We have encoun­tered the living God, and we are beginning to see things in a new way. Still, so much remains indis­tinct and fuzzy. Only through con­tinued dialogue with Jesus and his repeated touch can we grow in our ability to see the world in the light of God’s love.

But there is another way to apply this story of gradual sight. For most of us, our life’s work comes into focus gradually rather than being revealed early on. For instance, three of us may like numbers, but that aptitude may lead one person to become a teacher and another to program computers and a third to compose music. It’s only as we grow and experiment, and as we listen to the Lord and the mentors he has given us, that we discern what our true calling is.

Similarly, our vocation may be outlined in a moment of decision to become a priest or to seek a spouse, but it takes a lifetime to enflesh that vocation. Being a parish priest or the mother of small children dictates much of what will fill our days. But only in cooperation with the Holy Spirit can our daily routine become a vocation of love, a way of bringing God’s kingdom into a specific time and place.

In your prayer today, tell Jesus what you can see, and admit what still seems confusing. Take a look at the way your vocation is unfolding. How is God inviting you to love him more? Ask him to sharpen your spir­itual vision so that you can see your life and your calling more clearly.

“Jesus, I long to see myself and others as you see us. Open my eyes wider to the reality and power of your love.”

14 February 2012

14 Feb 2012, Memorial of Saint Cyril, monk, and Saint Methodius, Bishop

Reading 1 Jas 1:12-18

Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation,
for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life
that he promised to those who love him.
No one experiencing temptation should say,
"I am being tempted by God";
for God is not subject to temptation to evil,
and he himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.
Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters:
all good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 94:12-13a, 14-15, 18-19

R. (12a) Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
Blessed the man whom you instruct, O LORD,
whom by your law you teach,
Giving him rest from evil days.
R. Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
For the LORD will not cast off his people,
nor abandon his inheritance;
But judgment shall again be with justice,
and all the upright of heart shall follow it.
R. Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
When I say, "My foot is slipping,"
your mercy, O LORD, sustains me;
When cares abound within me,
your comfort gladdens my soul.
R. Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.

Gospel Mk 8:14-21

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

Meditation: Mark 8:14-21

Watch out.” (Mark 8:15)

The disciples had forgotten more than just bread! They had forgot­ten—or perhaps they just hadn’t yet realized—something fundamental about who God is and how he treats his children. He is a giver of good gifts, and he is unchanging. He is reliable and consistent in his deal­ings with us. As the Letter of James tells us: “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, com­ing down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow [of] change” (James 1:17).

So if God had given bread to eat to those who had none—twice, no less—wouldn’t it be reason­able to think that he might do so again? So why did the disciples worry that they didn’t have any bread for themselves? Jesus was right there in the boat with them. Couldn’t they ask him to help them out? Unfortunately, their thoughts were stuck on what their stomachs growled for and what their eyes beheld—no bread.

This story tells us how impor­tant it is that we take our thoughts captive and make sure they line up with the truths of faith as we know them. Sometimes it takes a serious amount of effort to do that, but we will be blessed if we persevere. If we can get into the habit of measur­ing our thoughts, ideas, and emo­tions against what we know to be true about God, we will find our­selves more peaceful, more trusting, and more confident in his love and power.

Today, try making a list of some things Scripture says about who God is. You can use the articles in the front of this magazine to help you. Take a look at the attributes of God that we explore in those arti­cles, and expand on them a bit. Then, use this list as a sounding board as the day unfolds. Try your best to make your thoughts and feelings to line up with the truths you have written out. No matter what happens today—good, bad, or indifferent—proclaim to yourself: “God is good. Always. He loves me. That never changes. He will always care for me. Abundantly.”

“Jesus, I want to live in peace, secure in your love and provision for my life. Help me to know and trust the truth of who you are.”

13 February 2012

13 Feb 2012, Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jas 1:1-11

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters,
when you encounter various trials,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
And let perseverance be perfect,
so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly,
and he will be given it.
But he should ask in faith, not doubting,
for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed about by the wind.
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,
since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

The brother in lowly circumstances
should take pride in high standing,
and the rich one in his lowliness,
for he will pass away "like the flower of the field."
For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass,
its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes.
So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 76

R. (77a) Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I hold to your promise.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
You are good and bountiful;
teach me your statutes.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn your statutes.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
I know, O LORD, that your ordinances are just,
and in your faithfulness you have afflicted me.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.

Gospel Mk 8:11-13

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

Meditation: Mark 8:11-13

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

Some people are never satisfied, are they? If you invite them over for dinner, they will wonder why you offered only one dessert instead of two. If you got a 95 percent on a test, they will ask why it wasn’t a perfect one hundred. If you finish your report at work on time, they will expect you to beat the dead­line the next time. You simply can’t please them.

This is one way of looking at the Pharisees who came to Jesus ask­ing for a sign to validate his min­istry. Hadn’t they seen enough already? What about all the diseases he healed and all the demons he cast out? What about the way he mirac­ulously fed thousands, or calmed a dangerous storm on the lake? Would they never be satisfied?

Finally, Jesus sighed deeply and said there would be no more signs. No more big public displays. From now on, his healings would be inti­mate affairs, taking place quietly and apart from the crowds. And there would be far fewer of them as well. He had done all he needed to do in order to prove himself. Now it was a question of whether the people would believe him and listen to his teachings. After all, that’s what the miracles were for: to point beyond themselves to Jesus and his mission.

The same is true for us. Jesus gives us signs every day and in many different ways. Some are very dramatic, like unexpected heal­ings, but many are more ordinary, like a beautiful sunrise or a word of encouragement from a friend. But whatever these signs are, they are enticements. They are meant to spark us to seek Jesus, the giver of the gifts, so that we can find the full healing that his salvation brings— the healing of our souls along with our bodies.

What signs will the Lord give you today? Keep your eyes and ears open, and you will undoubt­edly find a great many of them. But don’t stop at the sign! When one comes along, accept it gratefully—of course!—but also take it for what it is. It’s pointing you to Jesus. So turn to him, and let him speak his words of wisdom and love to you!

“Holy Spirit, open my eyes today. I want to see Jesus in every sign he gives me!”

12 Feb 2012, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Lv 13:1-2, 44-46

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
"If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
which appears to be the sore of leprosy,
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
or to one of the priests among his descendants.
If the man is leprous and unclean,
the priest shall declare him unclean
by reason of the sore on his head.

"The one who bears the sore of leprosy
shall keep his garments rent and his head bare,
and shall muffle his beard;
he shall cry out, 'Unclean, unclean!'
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11

R. (7) I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, "I confess my faults to the LORD,"
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart.
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Reading 2 1 Cor 10:31-11:1

Brothers and sisters,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or
the church of God,
just as I try to please everyone in every way,
not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Gospel Mk 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
"If you wish, you can make me clean."
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
"I do will it. Be made clean."
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning the him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

He said to him, "See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them."

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Meditation: Mark 1:40-45

He remained outside in deserted places.” (Mark 1:45)

This man wore no shackle or chain, yet he lived every day in soli­tary confinement. Afflicted with lep­rosy, he was bound by Levitical law, which insisted that everyone with a skin disease must be quarantined. It was a hellish fate, where they lived in isolation until they withered away.

Then the man felt a touch from Jesus’ outstretched hand, and he was healed instantly! Jesus took away the disease that separated this man from his brothers and sisters, and by extension, from God. For cen­turies, Fathers of the Church have seen in this story a model of the way Jesus destroyed the leprosy of sin and brought us back into communion with each other and with God.

We are familiar with the healings that Jesus performed—healings of body, soul, and spirit. For the most part, they have happily-ever-after end­ings where everyone is restored to health, and Jesus is revered as a pow­erful wonderworker. But this story takes an unexpected turn. While the man was able to embrace his loved ones and rejoin the community, Jesus was forced to remain outside of the town in “deserted places” (Mark 1:45). Why?

We may think it was because Jesus was afraid the people would try to make him a king or use him in their political struggle against the occupying Roman army. This may have been part of Jesus’ thinking. But if we look at the Law of Moses, we see that Jesus stayed away also because he had touched a leper, which made him ritually unclean. And the only remedy for such impu­rity was a time of isolation so that he would not contaminate anyone else.

What a vivid illustration of the gospel! On the cross, Jesus took upon himself the sickness of our sin and the banishment that we deserved. He bore them in his own body, cleansing us to be united with God. By Love’s wounds, we have been healed!

“Lord Jesus, your love moves me to bow in worship at your feet, for that leper was me.”


Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

(Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46; Psalm 32:1-2,5,11; 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1; Mark 1:40-45)

1. The first reading describes Jewish laws concerning lepers. In addition to the suffering caused by the disease of leprosy, why did declaring a leper as unclean and having him “dwell apart” from the community make his suffering even worse? What more can you do to reach out to those who are sick and suffering?

2. In the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11), why does the psalmist talk of being glad, rejoicing, and exalting in the Lord after confessing his sins? This should also be our response after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Is it yours? Why or why not?

3. In the second reading, St. Paul urges us to be an imitator of him as he is of Christ, so that many “may be saved.” Why is the witness of our lives so important in drawing people to Christ and his Church? What are some areas of your life that may need to change so that others can see Christ in you in a clearer way?

4. In the Gospel reading, Jesus was “moved with pity” and healed a leper. How does Jesus’ reaching out and touching the leper also demonstrate his great compassion and love for him? What impact do you think this touch by Jesus had on the leper apart from the healing?

5. The meditation ends with these words: “On the cross, Jesus took upon himself the sickness of our sin and the banishment that we deserved. He bore them in his own body, cleansing us to be united with God. By Love’s wounds, we have been healed!” How would you describe the healing that Jesus has done in your life through the power of his Cross? As the opportunity arises, are you willing to share this with others who may need to understand what Jesus did for them though his death on the Cross? If not, why not?

6. Take some time now to pray for the grace to know and experience more deeply the healing that Jesus desires to give you through the power of his Cross. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.