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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Second Sunday In Lent

Today’s Readings   Gen 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18   Rom 8:31b-34   Mark 9:2-10
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/15_03_01.mp3

The Lenten season continues with another story of testing. Last Sunday, we heard the trial of Jesus in the desert. In this week’s First Reading, we hear of how Abraham was put to the test.

The Church has always read this story as a sign of God’s love for the world in giving His only begotten son.

In today’s Epistle, Paul uses exact words drawn from this story to describe how God, like Abraham, did not withhold His only Son, but handed Him over for us on the cross (see Romans 8:32; Genesis 22:12,16).

1-7    In the Gospel today, too, we hear another echo. Jesus is called God’s “beloved Son” – as Isaac is described as Abraham’s beloved firstborn son.

These readings are given to us in Lent to reveal Christ’s identity and to strengthen us in the face of our afflictions.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we are told to listen, not by our parents, but rather by our heavenly Father. When Jesus is transfigured in glory the voice of the Father is heard as it was at the baptism of Jesus. In both cases, the voice from the heavens declares, “This is my beloved Son.” But in Sunday’s Gospel, the voice goes on to say, “Listen to him.”

When Jesus is transfigured and shines with divine glory, Moses and Elijah appear with him. These great figures represent the Law and Prophets. They represent the teachings that the Chosen People were to listen to and obey. Those figures recede and Jesus is declared as the one to whom we are to listen. Jesus fulfils and surpasses the Law and the Prophets. God now tells us, “Listen to him.”

We listen to Jesus when we take his teachings and his example to heart and make them the guide for our own lives. By listening to Jesus we begin to be “transfigured” ourselves. We gradually become those Christian men and women God wants us to be. We shine with holiness.

This Season of Lent challenges us to consider how we are acting, how we are treating others, how we are speaking, how we are spending our money, how we are using our time and talent, and then to examine if our living is in line with the Gospel. Are we truly listening to Jesus or are we listening to ourselves and to other voices?

Parents tell their children to listen because they love them and want them to be the best they can be. That is the very same reason that God the Father tells us to listen. He wants us to listen to his Beloved Son who embodies the truth and who shows us how to find meaning and happiness in this life and everlasting life tomorrow.

It is easy to meet God in a venue specifically organized and carefully planned in hopes of creating an experience of this kind among like-minded individuals. It is harder to meet God as God in the places and times of our life that are full of confusion, chaos, and the messiness of life. It is easier to encounter God in a place far removed from the realities of our daily existence, and echo Peter in saying, “It is good that we are here! Let’s build tents and stay here awhile!”

Yet, by coming down the mountain with Jesus, returning to the complexities of the world, they set a valuable example for us. It is good to have those moments alone on our metaphorical mountaintop with God. Even Jesus needed those moments. It is important, however, to remember that when we leave that mountain, we aren’t going back alone. Jesus goes back down the mountain and back into our lives as well, just as he did after that “mountaintop moment” with Peter, James, and John. This is as much a part of the experience as the “mountaintop moment itself.”

As Jesus renews his call to our hearts through this Mass, let’s renew our response to that call.

Let’s make once again a firm, conscious commitment to follow the Father’s beloved Son, in spite of other clamoring voices, no matter where he leads.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Friday 1st Week of Lent

Today’s Readings Ezekiel 18:21-28   Matthew 5:20-26
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/15_02_27.mp3

Once God’s love fills our emptiness, there’s no room left for anger.

A lot of people think that they will be saved by belonging instead of by being. Before Ezekiel, many Hebrews thought that salvation was assured because they were children of Abraham. There was a rabbinical tradition that Abraham was stationed at the gate of hell to rescue any Jew who might accidentally come there, since all Jews were supposed to be saved!

Ezekiel is the prophet of individual responsibility. A child is not responsible for the sins of a parent. Parents (who have tried to do a good job) are not responsible for the sins of their children. Each of us is responsible. In our times, there is a tendency to blame bad behaviour on others: on poverty, on dysfunction, and so on. But each of us is responsible for his attitude and his actions. We may come from a rotten environment. But we can have insights into our plight, and we can be responsible to rise above it. We are not judges of other’s conduct, and there can be cases when freedom is so diminished that we lack full responsibility. But we are also human beings. We can know right from wrong. And we can take responsibility for our lives. A splash of water and a smear of oil will not save us. Holiness is a daily and lifelong struggle to be responsible.

1-6     In the gospel, Jesus tells us that our holiness must exceed that of the Scribal Pharisees or we won’t even get in the door of heaven. The Scribal Pharisees had the reputation of being the holiest of people of the time of Jesus! To live a life that models Jesus’ is difficult, counter-cultural, challenging, and…a necessity. It is our call as Christians to not live a life of a contained faith, but one that permeates and enriches every moment of our lives.

Jesus makes this point by addressing the sin of anger. He describes the increasingly destructive effect it has on the angry person’s soul. The rest of this scripture passage is God’s remedy for anger. In essence, Jesus says: Go and do whatever is necessary to be reconciled with the one who’s made you angry. This, he points out, is even more important than worshiping God. How genuine can our worship be if anger has replaced love in our hearts, since God is love?

We all have people in our lives whose behavior angers us. Righteous anger includes forgiveness; sinful anger wants vengeance. To ignore the need to heal from our anger is to stifle the Holy Spirit within us.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Thursday First Week of Lent

Today’s Readings Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25  Matthew 7:7-12

USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/15_02_26.mp3

When we understand what Jesus did for us on the cross, we realize that the door to God’s love is already open.

Today’s readings remind us of our dependence upon God. Often we do not realize this dependence until we have serious problems or needs. This does not surprise God, however, and we need to remember that God is faithful even when we are not so faithful.
The scriptures for today focus not on the ending, but on the process. Esther is afraid, and she does not know how things will turn out. However, she takes comfort in the stories she had heard from of old, which recount the faithfulness of God. She considered herself like an orphan with no other help – and she depended on God’s faithfulness to come through.

Of course, Esther would not know the end of the story until later. But her faith in God was not a blind leap or a shot in the dark. She knew God had a track record of helping people just like her. Somehow, it helps us to rehearse the truths we know in the face of difficult circumstances.

 1-6    The Gospel brings this message closer to home, as Jesus explains that of course God will respond to his children. After all, even imperfect human parents don’t ignore their kids when they have needs.

It all sounds very easy to have faith after we know how the story turns out. It is not so easy in the midst of a trial. Because we don’t know the end of the story, it is impossible to evaluate the significance and impact of a stressful event at the time. Often we fail to appreciate the good that comes to us – whether in the form of a deeper faith or in a longer-term benefit – from events we would not choose for ourselves.

I think that makes another part of Esther’s story very important. Esther had the benefit of others joining with her in her prayer. Some were far off, including Mordecai and all of his people. Others – in this case her “handmaids” – were right there sharing her trouble with her. The counsel and consolation of others help us to pray and to not lose heart. Of course, we ultimately need the consolation that comes from God himself, but until that comes, we need our friends to act as His hands to hold us during difficult times.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Wednesday First Week of Lent

Today’s Readings Jonah 3:1-10  Luke 11:29-32

USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/15_02_25.mp3

1-2      Today’s readings are about our need for repentance. We are asked to be contrite and humble in order to avoid God’s wrath. The first reading also reminds us that when “God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,” He forgave the people of Nineveh.
In Luke, Jesus is frustrated with the people. Christ warns of God’s judgment. The people want a magic show. Jesus says, “Here I am. I am greater than Solomon or Jonah.” The Son of God is standing right in front of them.

Actions speak louder than words. How do we know what is right and what is wrong? It seems to me that it is difficult to live a righteous life when there are so many temptations. It is easy to blame the media, the internet, friends, family, and society for many problems. But there is nothing that inhibits us from living humbly. There is no reason why we could not repent when we know that we have done something wrong.

To be humble, we submit to God’s will and authority; we recognize the talents that others possess, while recognizing the limits to my own talents and ability. While recognizing the talents of others can seem relatively easy, I often find it difficult to do things without being recognized. Too often, we search for recognition and honour because we want to be valued. However, we tend to forget that God values all of us, no matter who we are or what we have achieved. I don’t need to seek His approval – I have it. Undoubtedly, receiving recognition for my talents is appreciated, but those talents are a gift of God.

Today, I thank God for his many blessings and I ask him to keep me humble. I pray: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me; My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit.”

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tuesday First Week of Lent

Today’s Readings Isaiah 55:10-11  Matthew 6:7-15

USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/15_02_24.mp3

We separate ourselves from God’s forgiveness whenever we refuse to forgive.

This short first reading comes from the last chapter of the second part of Isaiah. We are reminded that God has his plans for the world and they will not be frustrated. Those plans are not arbitrary. They are for the wellbeing of all creation. He is the loving Father to whom we pray with confidence, described in the Gospel reading about the Lord’s Prayer.

The prophet expresses these ideas in language that is truly poetic. The inevitability of God’s Word being realised is like that of the gentle rain that makes the earth fertile and fruitful and so produces the seed that provides the bread on which we live. “So it is with the word that goes from my mouth: it will not return to me unfulfilled or before having carried out my good pleasure.”

An important part of our baptismal renewal is the renewal of our prayer life. How do we pray? Does our prayer consist simply of the repetition of words or does it come from our heart? Prayer’s purpose is not to inform an absent God of a present need, but rather, as St. Augustine suggests, to enlarge our hearts to be able to receive all the good God wishes to give us. We can count on his knowledge of us and our situation; we can count on his desire to give us good things!

2    And that is what the Lord’s Prayer is about. Strictly speaking, it is not a prayer to be recited. It is a way of praying; it is a list of the things we need to pray about. And it is less our telling God what we want him to do than making ourselves aware of the ways by which we can become more united with him. And let us remember the conclusion of the gospel: Only if we forgive others will we ourselves be forgiven.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Monday First Week of Lent

Today’s Readings Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18  Matthew 25:31-46

USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/15_02_23.mp3

Today’s first reading explains, in typical Old Testament fashion, how we are not supposed to lead our lives. While the list that God gave Moses is necessary and important, it provides no explanation of how to act, simply how not to act. This certainly contrasts the Gospel reading, in which Jesus outlines what defines those that will join him in Heaven and those that will not. In Jesus’ explanation he does not say that those who receive eternal life are those who commit the fewest number of sins, rather he points out the good that we should do throughout our lives.

1-3    The fact that underlies Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel is that we can encounter God in other people. God is present in all things and people because he is the origin of their existence, similar to how an artist is present in his artwork. Jesus encourages us to welcome, care for, and fulfil the basic needs of other people as if we were doing the deed for God himself. The other side of Jesus’ teaching explains that the love or physical care withheld from another person is also withheld from God. Remembering that anything I do for or to another person is essentially done also to God definitely makes me think twice about the way I act in that other person’s presence.
Later, Jesus would push the command even further when he told us to love each other not just as much as we love ourselves but to the degree that he loved us – by ‘emptying’ himself and giving his life for every single one of us.

If we all remembered this Gospel reading at the beginning of each day, how many of our world’s problems would disappear due to the simple desire to treat those around us the same way we would treat God himself?
Let’s accept Jesus’ invitation and strive to seek God in everyone around us throughout our daily lives.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

Today’s Readings Gen 9:8-15  1 Peter 3:18-22  Mark 1:12-15

USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/15_02_22.mp3

Lent bids us to return to the innocence of baptism. As Noah and his family were saved through the waters of the deluge, we were saved through the waters of baptism, Peter reminds us in today’s Epistle.

And God’s covenant with Noah in today’s First Reading marked the start of a new world. But it also prefigured a new and greater covenant between God and His creation. We see that new covenant and that new creation begin in today’s Gospel.1-2

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:12-15), we learn what happens after Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River. We are told that the Spirit of God drives Jesus into the desert. There he stays for 40 days.

So what did Jesus do during his almost six weeks in the wasteland?

Mark only tells us that Jesus was “tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” Matthew and Luke add that Jesus fasted. But fasting is a passive activity. It will not fill the hours of the day, except for drawing our attention to our growling stomachs.

So what did Jesus do? The fact that we are told Jesus was tempted, gives us an indication of what occupied Jesus during those 40 days. Guided by the Spirit, Jesus spent time thinking and praying about his mission. He considered what the Father was asking of him and how he could faithfully accomplish the Father’s will.

The temptations that Mark reports, and that Matthew and Luke describe in more vivid terms as actual conversations with Satan, could be understood as thoughts that came to Jesus during his time of reflection. Thoughts that whispered there was an easier way, other than God’s way, to be the messiah. Be a messiah of power and display, a messiah willing to compromise with the world.

Yet Jesus rejected those temptations and left the desert knowing what he had to do. He was to proclaim, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” And he was to make that kingdom visible by his way of life and by overcoming the forces of darkness and sin.

Those days in the desert gave Jesus the opportunity to think, to pray, and to reflect on what God wanted of him. It also allowed Jesus to reject in advance those things that would compromise his mission and his relationship with God.
This Season of Lent might be seen as the time when the Spirit of God moves us into the “desert.” It is a time of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, sacrifice, and penance. But perhaps the best thing we might do this Lent is to do what Jesus did. To think, to reflect, and to ask ourselves, “What is it that God wants me to be doing at this point in my life?” “What things, what temptations, are holding me back from what God is asking of me?”

Of course, stopping and taking quiet time for such reflection is not easy in our very “un-desert-like” world. But perhaps we can begin by taking just one minute to do that today. Take just one minute to stop and reflect. Then add another minute tomorrow. Reflect for two minutes. Then keep adding an additional minute each day of Lent.

By the end of the Lent we will be reflecting some 40 minutes a day. That “desert time” will help us to see what is happening in our life, what God is asking of us, and what temptations and behaviours are holding us back from doing what God wishes.

What did Jesus do for 40 days? He reflected. He thought about his life and mission, and he hold us to account for our baptismal vows but the good news is that Christ, stays with us in our Lenten desert testing – he’s been there; he’s done that. We have a Lord who has preceded us into the desert. He’ll help us if we stick with him. He knows the way and he’ll show us the way out.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2015 in Uncategorized