31 March 2012

31 Mar 2012, 5th Week of Lent - Saturday; St. Guy of Pomposa

FIRST READING
Ezekiel 37:21-28

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12abcd, 13

R. (see 10d) The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant isles, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock.

R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.

The LORD shall ransom Jacob, he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror. Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, the sheep and the oxen.

R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.

Then the virgins shall make merry and dance, and young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.

R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
Ezekiel 18:31

Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the Lord, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

GOSPEL
John 11:45-56

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

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

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


REFLECTIONS:

Meditation: Do you allow fear or opposition to hold you back from doing God’s will? Jesus set his face like flint toward Jerusalem, knowing full well what awaited him there (Luke 9:51; Isaiah 50:7). It was Jewish belief that when the high priest asked for God's counsel for the nation, God spoke through him. What dramatic irony that Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus must die for the nation. The prophet Ezekiel announced that God would establish one people, one land, one prince, and one sanctuary forever. Luke adds to Caiphas’s prophecy that Jesus would gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. Jesus came to lay down his life for the many, but not in a foolish reckless manner so as to throw it away before his work was done. He retired until the time had come when nothing would stop his coming to Jerusalem to fulfill his Father's mission.

Augustine wrote: "The passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the hope of glory and a lesson in patience. ..He loved us so much that, sinless himself, he suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins. How then can he fail to give us the reward we deserve for our righteousness, for he is the source of righteousness? How can he, whose promises are true, fail to reward the saints when he bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself? Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim, that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory."The way to glory and victory for us is through the cross of Jesus Christ. Are you ready to take up your cross and follow Christ in his way of victory?

"Lord Jesus, may we your disciples be ever ready to lay down our lives in conformity to your will, to willingly suffer and die for you, that we may also share in your victory and glory."

30 March 2012

30 Mar 2012, 5th Week of Lent - Friday; St. John Climacus

FIRST READING
Jeremiah 20:10-13

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7

R. (see 7) In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

I love you, O LORD, my strength, O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.

R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold! Praised be the LORD, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies.

R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

The breakers of death surged round about me, the destroying floods overwhelmed me; The cords of the nether world enmeshed me, the snares of death overtook me.

R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

In my distress I called upon the LORD and cried out to my God; From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
See John 6:63c, 68c

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life.

GOSPEL
John 10:31-42

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

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


REFLECTIONS:

Is your life consecrated to God? The scriptural understanding
of consecration is to make holy for God – to be given over as a
free-will offering and sacrifice for God. Jesus made himself a sin-offering
for us, to ransom us from condemnation and slavery to sin. He spoke of
his Father consecrating him for this mission of salvation. Why were the
religious leaders so upset with Jesus that they wanted to kill him? They
charged him with blasphemy because he claimed to be the Son of God. Jesus
made two claims in his response: He was consecrated by the Father
to a special task and he was sent into the world to carry out his
Father's mission. Jesus challenged his opponents to accept his works
if they could not accept his words. One can argue with words, but
deeds are beyond argument. Jesus is the perfect teacher in that he does
not base his claims on what he says but on what he does. The word of God
is life and power to those who believe. Jesus shows us the way to walk
the path of truth and holiness. And he anoints us with his power to live
the gospel with joy and to be his witnesses in the world. Are you a doer
of God's word, or a forgetful hearer only?
"Write upon my heart, O Lord, the lessons of your holy word, and grant
that I may be a doer of your word, and not a forgetful hearer only."

29 March 2012

29 Mar 2012, 5th Week of Lent - Thursday; St. Jonas and St. Barachisius

FIRST READING
Genesis 17:3-9

When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him: “My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations. No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations. I will render you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings shall stem from you. I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.”
God also said to Abraham: “On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Look to the LORD in his strength; seek to serve him constantly. Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought, his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.

R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

You descendants of Abraham, his servants, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones! He, the LORD, is our God; throughout the earth his judgments prevail.

R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

He remembers forever his covenant which he made binding for a thousand generations B Which he entered into with Abraham and by his oath to Isaac.

R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
Psalm 95:8

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

GOSPEL
John 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.


REFLECTIONS:

Do you submit to Jesus' words as if your life depended
on it? Jesus made a claim which only God can make – "if any one keeps my
word, he will never see death." St. Augustine of Hippo, in his commentary
on John's Gospel, explains this verse: "It means nothing less than he saw
another death from which he came to free us – the second death, eternal
death, the death of hell, the death of the damned, which is shared with
the devil and his angels! This is the real death; the other kind
of death is only a passage." [Tractates on the Gospel of
John 43.10-11]
When God established a relationship with Abraham, he offered him an
unbreakable "everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:7). Jesus came to fulfill
that covenant so that we could know the living God and be united with him
both now and for all eternity. God made us to know him and to be united
with him and he gives us the gift of faith and understanding so that we
may grow in the knowledge of what he has accomplished for us through his
Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus challenged the people of Israel to accept his
word as the very revelation of God himself. His claim challenged the very
foundation of their belief and understanding of God. Jesus made a series
of claims which are the very foundation of his life and mission. What are
these claims? First, Jesus claims unique knowledge of God as the only begotten
Son of the Father in heaven. Since he claims to be in direct personal communion
with his Father in heaven, he knows everything about the Father. Jesus
claims
that the only way to full knowledge of the mind and heart of God is through
himself. Jesus also claims unique obedience to God the Father. He thinks,
lives and acts in the knowledge of his Father's word. To look at his
life is to "see how God wishes me to live." In Jesus alone we see what
God wants us to know and what he wants us to be.

When the Jewish authorities asked Jesus who do you claim to be?
he answered, "before Abraham was, I am." Jesus claims to be timeless
and there is only one in the universe who is timeless, namely God. Scripture
tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever"
(Hebrews 13:8). Jesus was not just a man who came, lived, died, and then
rose again. He is the immortal timeless One, who always was and always
will be. In Jesus we see the eternal God in visible flesh. He is God who
became a man for our sake and for our salvation. His death and resurrection
make it possible for us to share in his immortality. Do you believe the
words of Jesus and obey them with all your heart, mind, and strength?

"Lord Jesus, let your word be on my lips and in my heart that I may
walk in the freedom of your everlasting love, truth and goodness."

28 March 2012

28 Mar 2012, 5th Week of Lent - Wednesday; St. Tutilo

FIRST READING
Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!

“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; And blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.”

R. Glory and praise for ever!

“Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

R. Glory and praise for ever!

“Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”

R. Glory and praise for ever!

“Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne upon the cherubim; praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”

R. Glory and praise for ever!

“Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven, praiseworthy and glorious forever.”

R. Glory and praise for ever!

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
See Luke 8:15

Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance.

GOSPEL
John 8:31-42

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

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


REFLECTIONS:

What saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego from
the fiery furnace? It was their obedience to God’s will. They were willing
to suffer death rather than disobey their God. God was with them in the
fiery furnace and he rewarded them for their faithfulness. Jesus came to
do the will of his Father in heaven. He was not spared the cross which
he willing embraced for our sake. His obedience reversed the curse of Adam’s
disobedience. The Father crowned him with victory over sin, death, and
Satan. Jesus shows us the way to true freedom and victory – by freely submitting
our heart, mind, and will to an all-merciful, all-loving, and all-wise
God. What the Father offers us in exchange is a kingdom of righteousness,
peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans14:17). The happiest, freest people
are those who delight in God. Their joy is the pleasure of doing the Father’s
will. Do you know the joy of obeying God and trusting in his life-giving
word?
The world presents us with a false notion of truth and freedom – “truth
is relative so I choose my own criteria for what is true” and worldly freedom
means “I can do whatever I please – regardless of what God or others might
think.” This is really a mask for slavery to one’s passions and unruly
desires. Jesus offers his disciples true freedom – freedom from slavery
to pride and arrogance, disbelief and ignorance, selfishness and greed,
hatred and revenge, fear and anxiety, despair and depression, and a host
of many other hurtful desires and addictions which cripple our lives. The
good news is that Jesus Christ has truly set us free from sin and its destructive
force in our lives. How is this possible? Through the gift and power of
the Holy Spirit we can choose to renounce sin and we can yield to God's
grace which enables us to walk each day and each moment in Christ’s way
of love and holiness.

A disciple is a follower and a listener. If we want to follow Christ
and live as his disciples, then we must listen to the words of Jesus, with
a humble and teachable spirit. As we listen with faith and obey with trust,
Christ himself gives us grace – the enabling power of his Holy Spirit –
to live, think, and act in the truth of his word. Do you believe in the
transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change your life and to set you
free to walk in Christ's way of love and holiness? .

"Lord Jesus, write your words of love and truth upon my heart and make
me a diligent student and a worthy disciple of your word."

27 Mar 2012, 5th Week of Lent - Tuesday; St. John of Egypt

FIRST READING
Numbers 21:4-9

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21

R. (2) O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

O LORD, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; in the day when I call, answer me speedily.

R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

The nations shall revere your name, O LORD, and all the kings of the earth your glory, When the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in his glory; When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute, and not despised their prayer.

R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

Let this be written for the generation to come, and let his future creatures praise the LORD: “The LORD looked down from his holy height, from heaven he beheld the earth, To hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.”

R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL

The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower; all who come to him will live for ever.

GOSPEL
John 8:21-30

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


REFLECTIONS:

Do you know the healing power of the cross of Christ?
When the people of Israel were afflicted with serpents in the wilderness
because of their sin, God instructed Moses: "Make a fiery serpent, and
set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live"
(Numbers 21:8). The bronze serpent points to the cross of Christ which
defeats sin and death and obtains everlasting life for those who believe.
The result of Jesus "being lifted up on the cross" and his rising and exaltation
to the Father's right hand in heaven, is our "new birth in the Spirit"
and adoption as sons and daughters of God. God not only redeems us, but
he fills us with his own divine life and power that we might share in his
glory. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit that we may have power to be his
witnesses and to spread and defend the gospel by word and action, and to
never be ashamed of Christ's Cross. Are you ready to witness the truth
and joy of the gospel to those around you?
 While many believed in Jesus and his message, many others, including
the religious leaders, opposed him. Some openly mocked him when he warned
them about their sin of unbelief. It's impossible to be indifferent to
Jesus' word and his judgments. We are either for him or against him. There
is no middle ground or neutral parties. When Jesus spoke about going away
he was speaking about his return to his Father and to his glory. His opponents
could not follow him because by their continuous disobedience to the word
of God and their refusal to accept him, they had shut themselves off from
God. Jesus warned them that if they continued to refuse him they would
die
in their sins. Jesus' words echoed the prophetic warning given to Ezekiel
(see Ezekiel 3:18 and 18:18) where God warns his people to heed his word
before the time is too late. God gives us time to turn to him and to receive
his grace, but that time is right now.

To sin literally means to miss the mark or to be off target.
The essence of sin is that it diverts us from God and from our true purpose
in life – to know the source of all truth and beauty which is God himself
and to be united with God in everlasting joy. When Adam and Eve first sinned,
they hid themselves from God (Genesis 3:8-10). That is what sin does; it
separates us from the One who is all loving, all-wise, and all-just. Jesus
went on to explain that if people could not recognize him in his word,
they would have the opportunity to recognize him when he is "lifted up"on
the cross of Calvary. Jesus pointed to the atoning sacrifice of his life
on the cross as the true source of healing and victory over the sin of
the world. The sacrifice of Christ's life on the cross for our sins is
the ultimate proof of God's love for us.
God so loved the world that
he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life (John 3:16). To fail to recognize Jesus and where
he came from is to remain in spiritual darkness; to believe Jesus and his
words is to walk in the joy and light of God's truth. There are certain
opportunities in life that come and do not return. Each of us is given
the opportunity to know and to accept Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior.
But that opportunity can be rejected and lost. Life here is limited and
short, but how we live it has everlasting consequences. Do you take advantage
of the present time to make room for God so that your life will count for
eternity?

"Lord Jesus, grant this day, to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern
our hearts and bodies, so that all our thoughts, words and deeds may be
according to your Father's law and thus may we be saved and protected through
your mighty help."

26 March 2012

26 Mar 2012, Solemnity of The Annunciation of the Lord; St. Margaret Clitherow

FIRST READING
Isaiah 7:10–14; 8:10

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 40:7–8a, 8b–9, 10, 11 (8a, 9a)

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not; then said I, “Behold I come.”

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, To do your will, O God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!”

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

I announced your justice in the vast assembly; I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Your justice I kept not hid within my heart; your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of; I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth in the vast assembly.

R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

SECOND READING
Hebrews 10:4–10

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

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

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

ALLELUIA
John 1:14ab

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us; and we saw his glory.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GOSPEL
Luke 1:26–38

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


REFLECTIONS:

Are you ready to be changed and transformed in Christlike
holiness? God never withholds his grace from us. His steadfast love and
mercy is new every day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Through the gift and grace
of the Holy Spirit we can be changed and made new in Christ. He can set
us free from our unruly desires and passions. Jesus never lost an opportunity
to bring freedom to those oppressed by sin and guilt. His frequent association
with sinners, however, upset the sensibilities of the religious leaders.
When a woman caught in adultery was brought to them for trial, they confronted
Jesus on the issue of retribution. Jewish law treated adultery as a serious
crime since it violated God’s ordinance and wreaked havoc on the stability
of marriage and family life. It was one of the three gravest sins punishable
by death.
This incident tells us a great deal about Jesus’ attitude to the sinner.
The scribes and Pharisees wanted to entrap Jesus with the religious and
civil authorities. That is why they brought a woman caught in adultery
before Jesus. Jesus turned the challenge towards his accusers. In effect
he said: Go ahead and stone her! But let the man who is without sin be
the first to cast a stone. The Lord leaves the matter to their own consciences.
When the adulterous woman is left alone with Jesus, he both expresses mercy
and he strongly exhorts her to not sin again. The scribes wished to condemn,
Jesus wished to forgive and to restore the sinner to health. His challenge
involved a choice – either go back to your former way of sin and death
or to reach out to the new way of life and happiness with him. Jesus gave
her pardon and a new start on life. God’s grace enables us to confront
our sin for what it is – unfaithfulness to God, and to turn back to God
with a repentant heart and a thankful spirit for God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Do you know the joy of repentance and a clean conscience?

“God our Father, we find it difficult to come to you, because our knowledge
of you is imperfect. In our ignorance we have imagined you to be our enemy;
we have wrongly thought that you take pleasure in punishing our sins; and
we have foolishly conceived you to be a tyrant over human life. But since
Jesus came among us, he has shown that you are loving, that you are on
our side against all that stunts life, and that our resentment against
you was groundless. So we come to you, asking you to forgive our past ignorance,
and wanting to know more and more of you and your forgiving love, through
Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Prayer of Saint Augustine)

25 March 2012

25 Mar 2012, 5th Sunday of Lent; Annunciation of the Lord

FIRST READING
Jeremiah 31:31–34

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

or:

Ezekiel 37:12–14

Thus says the LORD God:
O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 51:3–4, 12–13, 14–15 (12a)

R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

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. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

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. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall return to you.

R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

SECOND READING
Hebrews 5:7–9

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

or:

Romans 8:8–11

Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
John 12:26

Whoever serves me must follow me, says the Lord; and where I am, there also will my servant be.

GOSPEL
John 12:20–33

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

or:

Longer Form John 11:1–45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to Jesus saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

or:

Shorter Form John 11:3–7, 17, 20–27, 33b–45

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.


REFLECTIONS:

When resistance and opposition to God's word rears
it head how do you respond? With fear and doubt? Or with faith and courage?
The prophet Jeremiah was opposed by his own people because the words he
spoke in God's name did not sit right with them. They plotted to silence
him and to "cut him off from the land of the living" (Jeremiah 11:19). 
Jeremiah responded with meekness and prophetic insight "like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter" (Jeremiah 11:18).
No one could be indifferent for long when confronted with Jesus and
his message. It caused division for many in Israel. Some believed he was
a prophet, some the Messiah, and some believed he was neither. The reaction
of the officers was bewildered amazement. They went to arrest him and returned
empty-handed because they never heard anyone speak as he did. The reaction
of the chief priests and Pharisees was contempt. The reaction of Nicodemus
was timid. His heart told him to defend Jesus, but his head told him not
to take the risk.

Who is Jesus for you? And are you ready to give him your full allegiance?
There will often come a time when we have to take a stand for Christ and
for the gospel. To stand for Jesus may provoke mockery or unpopularity.
It may even entail  hardship, sacrifice, and suffering. There are
fundamentally two choices we must choose between: to have our lives fueled
by God’s selfless love for others or by our own self-centered love and
selfish desires, to be loyal to God’s wise rule and kingdom laws or to
the standards of a worldly kingdom opposed to God, to be servants of Jesus
our Master or slaves of sin and Satan. Are you ready to stand for Jesus
and to show him honor and loyalty whatever it may cost you?

"Lord Jesus, your gospel brings joy and freedom. May I be loyal to you
always, even though it produce a cross on earth, that I may share in your
crown in eternity".

24 March 2012

24 Mar 2012, 4th Week of Lent - Saturday; Blessed Diego

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 7:2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12

R. (2a) O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.

O LORD, my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and rescue me, Lest I become like the lion’s prey, to be torn to pieces, with no one to rescue me.

R. O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.

Do me justice, O LORD, because I am just, and because of the innocence that is mine. Let the malice of the wicked come to an end, but sustain the just, O searcher of heart and soul, O just God.

R. O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.

A shield before me is God, who saves the upright of heart; A just judge is God, a God who punishes day by day.

R. O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
See Luke 8:15

Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance.

GOSPEL
John 7:40-53

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

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

Then each went to his own house.

REFLECTIONS:

When resistance and opposition to God's word rears
it head how do you respond? With fear and doubt? Or with faith and courage?
The prophet Jeremiah was opposed by his own people because the words he
spoke in God's name did not sit right with them. They plotted to silence
him and to "cut him off from the land of the living" (Jeremiah 11:19). 
Jeremiah responded with meekness and prophetic insight "like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter" (Jeremiah 11:18).
No one could be indifferent for long when confronted with Jesus and
his message. It caused division for many in Israel. Some believed he was
a prophet, some the Messiah, and some believed he was neither. The reaction
of the officers was bewildered amazement. They went to arrest him and returned
empty-handed because they never heard anyone speak as he did. The reaction
of the chief priests and Pharisees was contempt. The reaction of Nicodemus
was timid. His heart told him to defend Jesus, but his head told him not
to take the risk.

Who is Jesus for you? And are you ready to give him your full allegiance?
There will often come a time when we have to take a stand for Christ and
for the gospel. To stand for Jesus may provoke mockery or unpopularity.
It may even entail  hardship, sacrifice, and suffering. There are
fundamentally two choices we must choose between: to have our lives fueled
by God’s selfless love for others or by our own self-centered love and
selfish desires, to be loyal to God’s wise rule and kingdom laws or to
the standards of a worldly kingdom opposed to God, to be servants of Jesus
our Master or slaves of sin and Satan. Are you ready to stand for Jesus
and to show him honor and loyalty whatever it may cost you?

"Lord Jesus, your gospel brings joy and freedom. May I be loyal to you
always, even though it produce a cross on earth, that I may share in your
crown in eternity".

23 March 2012

23 Mar 2012, 4th Week of Lent - Friday; St. Toribio de Mogrovejo

FIRST READING
Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 34:17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23

R. (19a) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

The LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them.

R. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the LORD delivers him.

R. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

He watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken. The LORD redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.

R. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
Matthew 4:4b

One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

GOSPEL
John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

What can hold us back from doing the will of God?
Fear, especially the fear of death, can easily rob us of courage and the
will to do what we know is right. Jesus met opposition and the threat of
death with grace and determination to accomplish his Father’s will. Jesus
knew that his mission, his purpose in life, would entail sacrifice and
suffering and culminate with death on the cross. But that would not be
the end. His “hour” would crush defeat with victory, condemnation with
pardon and freedom, and death with glory and everlasting life. He willingly
suffered and went to the cross for our sake, to redeem us from sin and
to restore our relationship with God the Father. Saint Augustine of Hippo
(354-430 AD) says: “Our Lord had the power to lay
down his life and to take it up again. But we cannot choose how long we
shall live, and death comes to us even against our will. Christ, by dying,
has already overcome death. Our freedom from death comes only through his
death. To save us Christ had no need of us. Yet without him we can do nothing.
He gave himself to us as the vine to the branches; apart from him we cannot
live.”
No one can be indifferent with Jesus for long. What he said and did
– his signs and wonders – he did in the name of God. Jesus not only claimed
to be the Messiah, God’s Anointed One. He claimed to be in a unique relationship
with God and to know him as no one else did. To the Jews this was utter
blasphemy. The religious authorities did all they could to put a stop to
Jesus because they could not accept his claims and the demands he made.
We cannot be indifferent to the claims which Jesus makes on us. We are
either for him or against him. There is no middle ground. We can try to
mold Jesus to our own ideas and preferences or we can allow his word to
free us from our own ignorance, stubborn pride, and deception. Do you accept
all that Jesus has said and done for you with faith and reverence or with
disbelief and contempt? The consequences are enormous, both in this life
and in eternity.

“Eternal God, who are the light of the minds that know you, the joy
of the hearts that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you;
grant us so to know you, that we may truly love you, and so to love you
that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom, in Jesus
Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of Saint Augustine)

22 Mar 2012, 4th Week of Lent - Thursday; St. Deogratias

FIRST READING
Exodus 32:7-14

The LORD said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ The LORD said to Moses, “I see how stiff-necked this people is. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent he brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains and exterminate them from the face of the earth’? Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’“ So the LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 106:19-20, 21-22, 23

R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

Our fathers made a calf in Horeb and adored a molten image; They exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating bullock.

R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

They forgot the God who had saved them, who had done great deeds in Egypt, Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham, terrible things at the Red Sea.

R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

Then he spoke of exterminating them, but Moses, his chosen one, Withstood him in the breach to turn back his destructive wrath.

R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
John 3:16

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.

GOSPEL
John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

REFLECTIONS:

Do you know the joy of the gospel and a life fully
submitted to Jesus Christ? Jesus’ opponents refused to accept his divine
authority and claim to be the only begotten Son from the Father. They demanded
evidence for his Messianic claim and equality with God. Jesus answers their
charges with the supporting evidence of witnesses. The law of Moses had
laid down the principle that the unsupported evidence of one person shall
not prevail against a man for any crime or wrong in connection with any
offence he committed (see Deuteronomy 17:6). At least two or three witnesses
were needed. Jesus begins his defense by citing John the Baptist as a witness,
since John publicly pointed to Jesus as the Messiah and had repeatedly
borne witness to him (see John 1:19, 20, 26, 29, 35, 36). Jesus also asserts
that a greater witness to his identity are the signs and miracles he performed.
He cites his works, not to point to himself but to point to the power of
God working in and through him. He cites God the Father as his supreme
witness.
Jesus asserts that the scriptures themselves, including the first five
books of Moses, point to him as the Messiah, the promised Savior. The problem
with the scribes and Pharisees was that they did not believe what Moses
had written. They desired the praise of their fellow humans and since they
were so focused on themselves, they became blindsighted to God. They were
so preoccupied with their own position as authorities and interpreters
of the law that they became hardened and unable to  understand the
word of God. Their pride made them deaf to God’s voice. Scripture tells
us that God reveals himself to the lowly, to those who trust not in themselves,
but who trust God and listen to God's word with an eagerness to learn and
to obey. The Lord Jesus reveals to us the mind and heart of God. Through
the gift of the Holy Spirit he opens our ears so that we may hear his voice
and he fills our hearts and minds with the love and knowledge of God.

Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote: “As Christians, our task is to make
daily progress toward God. Our pilgrimage on earth is a school in which
God is the only teacher, and it demands good students, not ones who play
truant. In this school we learn something every day. We learn something
from commandments, something from examples, and something from sacraments.
These things are remedies for our wounds and materials for study.” Are
you an eager student of God’s word and do you listen to it with faith and
trust?

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may listen to your
word attentively and obey it joyfully."

21 March 2012

21 Mar 20112, 4th Week of Lent - Wednesday; St. Serapion

FIRST READING
Isaiah 49:8-15

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18

R. (8a) The Lord is gracious and merciful.

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.

R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.

The LORD is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works. The LORD lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.

R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.

The LORD is just in all his ways and holy in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
John 11:25a, 26

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; whoever believes in me will never die.

GOSPEL
John 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews:
“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

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

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

Reflections:

Who can claim all authority and power over life and
death itself? Jesus not only made such a claim, he showed God's power to
heal and restore people to wholeness of life. He also showed the mercy
of God by releasing people from their burden of sin and guilt. He even
claimed to have the power to raise the dead to life and to execute judgment
on all the living and dead. The Jewish authorities were troubled with Jesus'
claims and looked for a way to get rid of him. He either had to be a mad
man and an imposter or who he claimed to be – God's divine son. Unfortunately,
they could not accept Jesus' claim to be the Messiah, the anointed one
sent by the Father to redeem his people. They sought to kill him because
he claimed an authority and equality with God which they could not accept.
They failed to recognize that this was God's answer to the long-awaited
prayers of his people: "In a time of favor I have answered you, in a day
of salvation I have helped you" (Isaiah 49:8). Jesus was sent by the Father
as "a covenant to the people" to reconcile them with God and  restore
to them the promise of paradise and everlasting life. Jesus' words and
actions reveal God's mercy and  justice. Jesus fulfills the prophecy
of Isaiah when he brings healing, restoration, and forgiveness to those
who accept his divine message.
The religious authorities charged Jesus as a Sabbath-breaker and a blasphemer.
They wanted to kill Jesus because he claimed equality with God – something
they thought no mortal could say without blaspheming. Little did they understand
that Jesus was both human and divine – the eternal Son with the Father
and the human son, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Jesus
answered their charge of breaking the Sabbath law by demonstrating God's
purpose for creation and redemption – to save and restore life. God's love
and mercy never ceases for a moment. Jesus continues to show the Father's
mercy by healing and restoring people, even on the Sabbath day of rest.
When the religious leaders charged that Jesus was making himself equal
with God, Jesus replied that he was not acting independently of God because
his relationship is a close personal Father-Son relationship. He and the
Father are united in heart, mind, and will. The mind of Jesus is the mind
of God, and the words of Jesus are the words of God.

Jesus also states that his identity with the Father is based on complete
trust and obedience. Jesus always did what his Father wanted him to do.
His obedience was not just based on submission, but on love. He obeyed
because he loved his Father. The unity between Jesus and the Father is
a unity of love – a total giving of oneself for the sake of another. That
is why their mutual love for each other is perfect and complete. The Son
loves the Father and gives himself in total obedience to the Father's will.
The Father loves the Son and shares with him all that he is and has. We
are called to submit our lives to God with the same love, trust, and obedience
which Jesus demonstrated for his Father.

If we wish to understand how God deals with sin and how he responds
to our sinful condition, then we must look to Jesus. Jesus took our sins
upon himself and nailed them to the cross. He, who is equal in dignity
and stature with the Father, became a servant for our sake to ransom us
from slavery to sin. He has the power to forgive us and to restore our
relationship with God because he paid the price for our sins. Jesus states
that to accept him is life
– a life of abundant peace and joy with God. But if we reject him, then
we freely choose for death
– an endless separation with an all-loving and merciful God. Do you want
the abundant life which Jesus offers? Believe in him, the living Word of
God, who became a man for our sake and our salvation, and reject whatever
is false and contrary to the gospel – the good news he came to give us.

"Lord Jesus, increase my love for you and unite my heart and will with
yours, that I may only seek and desire what is pleasing to you."

20 March 2012

20 Mar 2012, 4th Week of Lent - Tuesday; St. Cuthbert

FIRST READING
Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12

The angel brought me, Ezekiel, back to the entrance of the temple of the LORD, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the fa├žade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He led me outside by the north gate, and around to the outer gate facing the east, where I saw water trickling from the right side. Then when he had walked off to the east with a measuring cord in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and had me wade through the water, which was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand and once more had me wade through the water, which was now knee-deep. Again he measured off a thousand and had me wade; the water was up to my waist. Once more he measured off a thousand, but there was now a river through which I could not wade; for the water had risen so high it had become a river that could not be crossed except by swimming. He asked me, “Have you seen this, son of man?” Then he brought me to the bank of the river, where he had me sit. Along the bank of the river I saw very many trees on both sides. He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9

R. (8) The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.

R. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High. God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed; God will help it at the break of dawn.

R. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Come! behold the deeds of the LORD, the astounding things he has wrought on earth.

R. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
Psalm 51:12a, 14a

A clean heart create for me, O God; give me back the joy of your salvation.

GOSPEL
John 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’“ They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.

Reflections:

Do you want to grow in holiness and be like Christ?
Ezekiel prophesies that a “river of life” will flow from God’s throne in
the Temple. This water will transform everything it touches, bringing life,
healing, and restoration. Jesus offers himself as the source of this living
water which he will pour out upon his disciples in the gift of the Holy
Spirit. The signs and miracles which Jesus performed manifest the power
and presence of God’s kingdom and they demonstrate the love and mercy God
has for his people. In the pool at Bethzatha we see an individual’s helplessness
overcome by God’s mercy and power. On this occasion Jesus singles out an
incurable invalid, helpless and hopeless for almost forty years. 
He awakens hope when he puts a probing question to the man, “Do you really
want to be healed?” And he then orders him to “get up and walk!”
God wants to free us from the power of sin and make us whole. But he
will not force our hand against our will. The first essential step towards
growth and healing is the desire for change. If we are content to stay
as we are, then no amount of coaxing will change us.  The Lord manifests
his power and saving grace towards those who desire transformation of life
in Christ. The Lord approaches each of us with the same probing question:
“Do you really want to be changed, to be set free from the power of sin,
and to be transformed in my holiness?”

“Lord Jesus, put within my heart a burning desire to be changed and
transformed in your holiness. Let your Holy Spirit change my heart and
renew me in your love and righteousness.

19 March 2012

19 Mar 2012, Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

FIRST READING
2 Samuel 7:4–5a, 12–14a, 16

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 89:2–3, 4–5, 27, 29 (37)

R. The son of David will live for ever.

The promises of the LORD I will sing for ever, through all generations my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness, For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”; in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.

R. The son of David will live for ever.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: Forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations.”

R. The son of David will live for ever.

“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father, my God, the Rock, my savior.’ Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him, And my covenant with him stands firm.”

R. The son of David will live for ever.

SECOND READING
Romans 4:13, 16–18, 22

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

ALLELUIA
Psalm 84:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house, O Lord; they never cease to praise you.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GOSPEL
Matthew 1:16, 18–21, 24a

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

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

or:

Luke 2:41–51a

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


Reflections:


Do you approach the Lord Jesus with expectant faith
for healing, pardon, and transformation in Christ-like holiness? Isaiah
prophesied that God would establish a new heavens and earth when he came
to restore his people. Jesus’ miracles are signs that manifest the presence
and power of God’s kingdom. When a high ranking official, who was very
likely from King Herod's court, heard the reports of Jesus’ preaching and
miracles, he decided to seek Jesus out for an extraordinary favor. If this
story happened today the media headlines would probably say: "High ranking
official leaves capital in search of miracle cure from a small town carpenter."
It took raw courage for a high ranking court official to travel twenty
miles in search of Jesus, the Galilean carpenter. He had to swallow his
pride and put up with some ridicule from his cronies. And when he found
the healer carpenter, Jesus seemed to put him off with the blunt statement
that people would not believe unless they saw some kind of miracle or sign
from heaven. Jesus likely said this to test the man to see if his faith
was in earnest. If he turned away discouraged or irritated, he would prove
to be insincere. Jesus, perceiving his faith, sent him home with the assurance
that his prayer had been heard. It was probably not easy for this man to
leave Jesus and go back home only with the assuring word that his son would
be healed. Couldn't Jesus have come to this man's home and touched his
dying child? The court official believed in Jesus and took him at his word
without doubt or hesitation. He was ready to return home and face ridicule
and laughter because he trusted in Jesus' word. God's mercy shows his generous
love – a love that bends down in response to our misery and wretchedness.
Is there any area in your life where you need healing, pardon, change,
and restoration? If you seek the Lord with trust and expectant faith, he
will not disappoint you. He will meet you more than half way and give you
what you need. The Lord Jesus never refused anyone who put their trust
in him. Surrender your doubts and fears, your pride and guilt at his feet,
and trust in his saving word and healing love.

"Lord Jesus, your love never fails and your mercy is unceasing. Give
me the courage to surrender my stubborn pride, fear and doubts to your
surpassing love, wisdom and knowledge. Make be strong in faith, persevering
in hope, and constant in love."

17 March 2012

18 Mar 2012, Fourth Sunday of Lent

FIRST READING
2 Chronicles 36:14–16, 19–23

In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the LORD’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon, where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons until the kingdom of the Persians came to power. All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: “Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled.”

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

or:

1 Samuel 16:1b, 6–7, 10–13a

The LORD said to Samuel:
“Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any one of these.” Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.” Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The LORD said, “There—anoint him, for this is the one!” Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 137:1–2, 3, 4–5, 6 (6ab)

R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. On the aspens of that land we hung up our harps.

R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

For there our captors asked of us the lyrics of our songs, and our despoilers urged us to be joyous: “Sing for us the songs of Zion!”

R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

How could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten!

R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

May my tongue cleave to my palate if I remember you not, if I place not Jerusalem ahead of my joy.

R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

SECOND READING
Ephesians 2:4–10

Brothers and sisters:
God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ—by grace you have been saved—, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

or:

Ephesians 5:8–14

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL
John 3:16

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.

GOSPEL
John 3:14–21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

or:

Longer Form John 9:1–41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”—which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”

or:

Shorter Form John 9:1, 6–9, 13–17, 34–38

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”—which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

Reflections:

Do you know the healing power of Christ's redeeming
love? The prophets never ceased to speak of God's faithfulness and compassion
towards those who would return to him with trust and obedience (2 Chronicles
36:15). When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus he prophesied that his death on the
cross would bring healing and forgiveness and a "new birth in the Spirit"
(John 3:3) and eternal life (John 3:15). Jesus explained the necessity
of his crucifixion and resurrection by analogy with Moses and the bronze
serpent in the desert. When the people of Israel journeyed in the wilderness,
they complained against the Lord and regretted ever leaving Egypt. God
punished them for their stubborn and rebellious hearts by sending a plague
of deadly serpents. When they repented and cried to the Lord for mercy,
God instructed Moses: "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and
every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live" (Numbers 21:8).
The bronze serpent pointed to the cross of Christ which defeats sin
and death and obtains everlasting life for those who believe. The result
of Jesus "being lifted up on the cross" and his rising and exaltation to
the Father's right hand in heaven, is our "new birth in the Spirit" and
adoption as sons and daughters of God. God not only redeems us, but he
fills us with his own divine life and power that we might share in his
glory. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit that we may have power to be his
witnesses and to spread and defend the gospel by word and action, and to
never be ashamed of the Cross of Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us his seven-fold
gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge
and reverence for God and his ways, and a holy fear in God's presence (see
Isaiah 11) that we may live for God and serve him in the power of his strength.
Do you thirst for new life in the Spirit?

How do we know, beyond a doubt, that God truly loves us and wants us
to be united with him forever? For God so loved the world that he gave
his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal
life (John 3:16). God proved his love for us by giving us the best
he had to offer – his only begotten Son who freely gave himself as an offering
to God for our sake and as the atoning sacrifice for our sin and the sin
of the world. This passage tells us of the great breadth and width of God's
love. Not an exclusive love for just a few or for a single nation, but
an all-embracing redemptive love for the whole world, and a personal love
for each and every individual whom God has created in his own image and
likeness. God is a loving Father who cannot rest until his wandering children
have returned home to him. Saint Augustine of Hippo says, "God loves each
one of us as if there were only one of us to love." God gives us the freedom
to choose whom and what we will love. Jesus shows us the paradox of love
and judgment. We can love the darkness of sin and unbelief or we can love
the light of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness. If our love is guided by
what is true, and good and beautiful then we will choose for God and love
him above all else. What we love shows what we prefer. Do you love God
above all else? Do you give him first place in your life, in your thoughts,
decisions and actions?

 "Lord Jesus Christ, your death on the cross brought life, healing,
and pardon for us. May your love consume and transform my life that I may
desire you above all else. Help me to love what you love, to desire what
you desire, and to reject what you reject".