Luke's Gospel tells us how Jesus called Levi who was sitting at the customs post. Jesus simply said, "Follow me." And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. That is extraordinary but many have done the same. They are attentive to hear the call and leave all to follow the one who loves them. Levi gave a great banquet for Jesus in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with him. Of course, the Pharisees and the scribes complained to his disciples and asked, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."
Jesus continues to call us and we are free to answer his call or not as he never forces anyone to follow him. Still, as the Good Shepherd, he is out there seeking the strayed and lost.
Today is the last day of February. Tomorrow is the First Sunday of Lent. The Psalm response is "Teach me your way, O lord, that I may walk in your truth."
I am going to show some Springtime photos during these first days of Lent. Some have been longing for Spring after a long, cold winter.
The first verse of the hymn for this Friday morning prayer is "The glory of these forty days We celebrate with songs of praise; For Christ, by whom all things were made, Himself has fasted and has prayed."
In the Gospel today the disciples of John approach Jesus and ask, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answers them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."
We fast in order to seek Jesus and to prepare ourselves to follow him; Jesus wants us to do good to others. Today's prayer over the gifts asks that "through this Lenten Eucharist may we grow in you love and service and become an acceptable offering to you." May we all grow in love and service during these days of Lent; these are days of preparing to follow Jesus in his way of the Cross and so enter into his joy- let us not forget that the Passion, Death, and Resurrection are not to be separated for this is the Paschal Mystery!
I read in the little Black Book this morning that Jesus was not very careful of his choice of companions at the dinner; not only the Pharisees criticize him, but also the followers of John the Baptist! Jesus had a human heart and none of us like to be the object of critical talk; Jesus does not seem to let it bother him and goes on being himself, open to all, loving and forgiving. A good lesson for me!
Every Sunday is special, but each of the forty days of Lent have special readings, too. Let us look at a quote from Thursday's readings before we move to Sunday.
In the first reading from Deuteronomy (30:15-20), Moses said to the people: "Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom...Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, you God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him." How am I choosing life?
PREPARATION for March 1, First Sunday in Lent
It is also the beginning of Spring break at St. Thomas University so I will be posting short entries prepared ahead of time as I will be away that week.
One of my theology professors said that if we wanted to understand the theology of a feast, we should look at the Preface for that feast. The Preface sums up the theology. Lent has three special Lenten Prefaces and a special Preface for each Sunday! In the Preface for the First Sunday of Lent we are told: "His fast of forty days makes this a holy season of self-denial. By rejecting the devil's temptations he has taught us to rid ourselves of the hidden corruption of evil and so to share his paschal meal in purity of heart, until we come to its fulfillment in the promised land of heaven." We are given the reason for this season of self-denial. We have also been given the example of how we are to reject the temptations to comfort, material goods, esteem, and power.
The Gospel account from Mark (1:12-15) is very brief but very important; the Apostles only knew about Jesus spending forty days in the desert and being tempted because Jesus must have wanted them to know and told them as they were not there. "The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him." That is all Mark tells us. Jesus was driven by the Spirit, a compelling invitation to go spend those forty days in a deserted place, a desert, and he was tempted. Mark then tells us in today's Gospel: After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. 'This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.'" Those forty days in the desert prepared Jesus to go out and preach that the kingdom of God is now and that we are to "Repent and believe in the gospel."
Here is a hymn for this season: Forty days and forty nights Thou wast fasting in the wild; Forty days and forty nights Tempted, and yet undefiled.
Shall not we thy sorrow share And from earthly joys abstain, Fasting with unceasing prayer, Glad with thee to suffer pain?
And if Satan, vexing sore, Flesh or spirit should assail. Thou, his Vanquisher before, Grant that we man not faint nor fail!
Keep, O keep us, Savior dear, Ever constant by thy side; That with thee we may appear At the eternal Eastertide.
God longs for us to return to him with our whole heart. The first reading is from the Prophet Joel (2:12-18) and begins, "Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment...."
Psalm 51 has the refrain: "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned."
We ask God in this Psalm to have mercy on us, to wash away our guilt and cleanse us of our sins for "I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always; against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight." And then comes the verse I love: 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."
We then ask to have back the "joy of your salvation" - and this leads us to the Second Reading from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians (5:20-6:2) where we are called ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. If we are to call others to be reconciled with God, we must first make sure that we are reconciled. Jesus tells us in the Gospel to take care that no one sees us do good deeds, give alms, pray and fast because "your Father who sees in secret will repay you." That phrase is repeated three times in the Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18). So we begin Lent knowing what is pleasing to the Lord and we ask him to help us during the next forty days to stay with him and to realize that the sign of the cross on our foreheads today is to keep us faithful as well as humble. The verse before the Gospel is one to use frequently: "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory! If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
If we are serious about following the Lord in Lent, we will share in his joy at Easter! What is the Lord asking of me this Lent?
Mardi Gras is the celebration that is held on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Some places have not only parades and costumes, but special food such as pancakes or crepes. In New Orleans the "King" cakes are famous. It is a way be aware of the season of Lent that begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday. Lent used to be a forty-day fast, but now the Church asks Catholics to fast only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; in the United States Catholics also abstain from meat on all the Fridays of Lent.
When I was a Freshman in college a group of us decided to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras week end. We took the bus and rode all night. I had my Aunt Jo meet me at the bus station with her husband, Bob, who was a Colonel in the Army and stationed there after the war. They both had interesting lives and had toured Europe where Bob was in charge of ordering supplies for the army's PX stores; they had also been stationed on an island in the Pacific where my Aunt Jo was one of the few wives to join her husband and the conditions were so primitive that a visiting General said that the officers whose wives had been out there with them were to take advantage of the supply boats that went back and forth from Japan to get a bit of rest and relaxation with their wives. Anyway, I had a marvelous week end and met with my college friends for the parades where we were invited to ride in a truck; I went to one of the balls as my uncle had a special invitation; the others stayed at our school in New Orleans called the Rosary. I went over there, too, to see one of my favorite nuns. We decided not to go back by bus but take the train overnight to St. Louis. We were able to get a drawing room on the train by pooling our money. On the way to the station, my aunt and uncle stopped to get me a "Poor Boy" to eat on the train and my aunt pressed a couple of dollars into my hand just before I boarded. I found the others crowded into the drawing room and starving. No one had even a penny left! They devoured my sandwich and spent my money for chips and we spent the night reliving our experiences. When we arrived at Union Station in St. Louis early on Ash Wednesday, we piled into a cab and asked the driver to wait while we went in to borrow money from the nuns to pay our fare. The Father of one of my friends who was a bank executive never got over the fact that we did not ask him to wire us money but came home without a cent. It was an adventure and I still remember some things vividly and so am sharing them with you today. It was my first visit to New Orleans and I saw so many interesting places; when I went back to teach there as a young religious, we were cloistered and so I could not go out to see anything so I was grateful for that Mardi Gras trip!
I did not know about the pancake tradition but asked my community last night and one said it was to use up the flour before Lent! I suspect that there is more than that to the tradition, but I had not heard of it until I went to look up an image for Shrove Tuesday and found many pictures with stacks of pancakes and plates of crepes! Not a very spiritual reflection today, but tomorrow begins an important season of self-denial and Mardi Gras is one way of preparing ourselves for the Lenten season!
Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna in 107, a leader of the early Christians and a disciple of the apostle John. He was also a friend of Ignatius of Antioch. Polycarp, like Ignatius, was martyred for his faith when he was eighty-six years old. He is one of the Fathers of the Church.
Today's Gospel has Jesus coming down from the mountain with Peter, James, and John. They found the other disciples with a large crowd and much commotion. They ran to Jesus who asked what they were arguing about and someone from the crowd told him: "Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit....I have asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so."
Jesus said to them: "O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him to me." To make a long Gospel short, I am skipping to the end when Jesus took the boy by the hand, raised him and he stood up. The disciples asked him in private, "Why could we not drive the spirit out? He said to them, "This kind can only come out through prayer."
I think that we need a great deal of prayer and faith to help others today. Let us ask Jesus to increase our faith and to help us to be people of prayer.
In this picture Jesus has cured the paralytic and told him to take up his mat and walk; he first forgave him his sins. I reflected on this Gospel on Thursday in "Preparing for Sunday" but have another thought to share today: "Paralysis is seen as a real physical condition in today's Gospel. It is also an image of the cumulative power of our sinful choices to ensnare us and hold us back from walking freely in the way of Christ."(Magnificat,(Vol.10 #13 p.311) Today I want to look at the sinful choices in my own life. I do not really desire to do this, but need to do it. With the psalmist I cry our, "Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you."
Paul tells us in the reading from 2 Corinthians 1:18-22 that we have been "given the Spirit in our hearts." And Isaiah, in the first reading of today's liturgy: "Thus says the Lord: Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! The Lord is always doing something new and surprises me. But the Lord says, "The people I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise. Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob, for you grew weary of me, O Israel. You burdened me with your sins, and wearied me with your crimes. It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more." That reading calls for our reflection. We were formed to praise God, but we "grew weary" of the Lord who has called us into existence and given us life; we have not responded well but have burdened him with our sins, yet he forgives us. The Lord is merciful.
Peter was raised by his brother, Damian, a priest in Ravenna, after their parents died. In gratitude, Peter called himself Peter Damian; he became a hermit monk in 1035. He was chosen as abbot in 1043 and appointed Cardinal bishop of Ostia in 1057. He was a zealous reformer of the clergy. Later he received permission from the Pope to return to the monastery. The Gospel today is one of my favorite, the Transfiguration of Jesus. Mark tells us how Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. "And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus." Imagine the impression this made on the three chosen Apostles who witnessed this. Peter wants to stay there and even blurts out, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Mark tells us that he hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. I suspect "awed" would be the better word, but they really were terrified. "Then, a cloud came casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, 'This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.'" The voice of the Father comes from the cloud as it did at the Baptism of Jesus. The Father is not only affirming that Jesus is his beloved Son, but telling us to listen to him. I often think that this phrase is one that calls us to pray without words but with a listening heart. This was a special moment for both Jesus and for the three invited to be with him to witness his moment of transfiguration. It is a moment that will strengthen them for the suffering and death that is to follow. The Gospel tells us that "Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them." Jesus is always with us; let us listen to him today! At a homily on Thursday, we were asked by Jesus to say who each of us thought he was for us: "But you, who do you say that I am?" The priest suggested several answers but what stayed with me was, "You are Jesus, the one who is always with me; you are within me, loving me."
In yesterday's Gospel (not reflected on here because of preparation for Sunday), Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And then he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter replied, "You are the Christ." Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and then rise after three days. In today's Gospel, Jesus says to both the crowd (including me) and the disciples: "Who ever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Jesus is still saying this to us. It is perhaps not what we want to hear, but it is part of following Jesus to carry one's cross and practice self-denial. Jesus continues by asking us a question that changed the life of at least one saint, "What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?"
Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly. When we follow Jesus we are not carrying a cross alone. What is my cross? Am I able to carry it with joy? I wonder if joy is in proportion sometimes to my capacity to deny myself and live only for Jesus? I am convinced that Jesus wants us to be joyful, but that does not mean self-indulgence. I am trying to get ready for Lent which is less than a week away!
We are preparing for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. It seems to me that it would be good to list the readings here for those who do not have them and want to look ahead of time: First Reading:Isaiah 43: 18-19,21-22, 24b-25; Second Reading: Corinthians 1:18-22; Gospel: Mark 2:1-12. As I believe the Word of God is so powerful in the Gospel each day, let us begin with the story of Jesus curing the paralytic. Jesus has returned to Capernaum and it "became known that he was at home." So many gathered that there was no room for them, not even around the door. So, since they were not able to get near Jesus, four men who were carrying a paralytic climbed to the roof, opened a hole and let the man down on the mat he was lying on. "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Child, your sins are forgiven."
Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. What is important is that this paralytic has his sins forgiven. The Scribes who were present immediately begin to accuse Jesus of blaspheming because only God can forgive sins. Jesus knew what they were thinking and said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth"- he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat and go home." He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God saying, "We have never seen anything like this."
Sometimes, when I read this, I am the paralytic. My friends carry me to Jesus. Jesus then says to me, "Your sins are forgiven." And I know this is true; I feel cleansed, full of new joy and energy. It is easy to believe that Jesus can forgive sins because I have this experience every time I receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I believe that Jesus waits for us to come to ask forgiveness, but here is a case where he freely announces the forgiveness without the paralytic saying anything aloud; Jesus sees the desires of our hearts. He is also aware of the desires of the friends that brought the paralytic to Jesus and did not let the crowd stop them from getting access to Jesus. Sometimes, I am the friends. I carry one in need to Jesus.
The other readings are also worth considering and I will reflect on them on Sunday. The response for Psalm 41 is "Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you."
It just seemed as if it is time for a Miscellaneous Day again. I am on a Round Table to explore how Religious of the Sacred Heart can continue to deepen our inner life and contemplation. We have so many helps given us in our Constitutions that, if we really lived out what is prescribed for us, I think we would all be saints.
I have been looking at some quotes from St. Madeleine Sophie, who founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in France in 1800; today, I want to share a few with you:
"An interior person has the ceaseless remembrance of the one for whom we act."
"The Heart of Jesus is for us shelter, food, fire, light, cool water...It is our element, our path, our life, our all."
"Love Jesus and do everything for him and in him."
"Love God, and if you cannot meditate you can always say,'My God, I love You.'"
Since my course is reading The Cloud of Unknowing this week, I have a few quotes also from that wonderful spiritual classic to share with you:
"If you wish to keep growing you must nourish in your heart the lively longing for God...All that he asks of you is that you fix your love on him..."
"One loving blind desire for God alone is more valuable in itself, more pleasing to God and to the saints, more beneficial to your own growth and more helpful to your friends, both living and dead, than anything else you could do."
"Though we cannot know him we can love him. By love he may be touched and embraced, never by thought."
"It is not what you are, nor what you have been that God sees with his all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be."
I suspect that each of these quotes needs some time for reflection.
Seven young men in Florence joined the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin between 1225 and 1227. Inspired by visions of Our Lady, they dedicated themselves to prayer and service. They built a church and hermitage on a deserted mountain; the bishop made them adopt a rule and accept recruits. They changed their name to Servants of Mary or Servites after another vision of Our Lady in 1240. Of the original seven, all but one became priests. The lay-brother lived to be 110 and saw the Order fully recognized in 1304.
Mark's Gospel for today (8:14-21) tells us, "The disciples has forgotten to bring bread; they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, 'Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.'" They did not understand what Jesus has said and concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. Jesus then asked them, "Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember...? He reminds them of how he has multiplied the bread to feed five thousand and they had twelve baskets of left over fragments and when he fed the four thousand, they picked up seven full baskets of left overs. It is not a question of lacking bread. It is trying to understand the message of Jesus. I need to reflect today if some of these same questions are not being asked of me by Jesus - Do I understand? Is my heart hardened? Do I see and hear with the eyes and ears of Jesus? Do I remember all that he has done for me?
Today I want to share with you the hymn for the Morning Office as I think it will give you much to reflect on during the day as it is a real meditation:
Tall stands the Tree beside the stream, Where living waters flow; Wide-flung the branches, cool the shade, Where all the weary go.
Fresh green the leaves for healing giv'n, Bright gold the new-pressed oil That runs as balm upon the banks Toward which the weary toil.
Deep-scarred the bark, but sweet the wine That pours down, last and best, And rich the table spread below, Where all the weary rest.
Sing praise to God, the gardener Whose labors never cease To make beneath the Tree of Life For all the weary, peace.
The Gospel has the Pharisees again who "began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him." Jesus, Mark tells us, sighed from the depth of his spirit. "Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen I say to you, no sign will be given..." Then Jesus got into the boat and went off to the other shore.
I am not one to ask for signs, but feel that the Lord often gives them. This seems to happen to some more than others. It is only when we have faith that we see signs, when we are able to trust - never if trying to test Jesus.
Today we celebrate a national holiday in honor of two great Presidents: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Both were men of integrity and may our present political leaders imitate them. Let us pray for all those in government that they may be honest, committed to the common good, and people of integrity.
As I reflected on Jesus curing the leper in today's Gospel when preparing for Sunday on the Thursday blog, I am now looking at the second reading from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (10:31-11:1). Paul tells us that "whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." Whatever we do - nothing is too small to do it for the glory of God! I was always told when a child that "If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right." I guess this relates to whatever we do, do it for the glory of God! That makes me remember one of our nuns who told me that she was told to always make her bed as though Jesus was going to sleep in it. I have never forgotten that and am incapable of just pulling up covers but must make the bed perfectly every morning. Actually, it is always one of my more contemplative moments outside of prayer. This reflection seems to have strayed from the day's second reading, but Paul does tell us that we are to avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God, "just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."
That is something to ponder. Do I try to please everyone in every way? I think some of the saints did this, but I feel it is only possible with the help of the Lord. I might get through one day pleasing everyone in every way, but I do not think I would have the courage to keep it up. Jesus did though and I have met some who live this way all the time. Lord help us to try to please You and in pleasing you, to please others! I do not want to seek my own good, but that of the many, that they may be saved!
The Psalm refrain today is: "I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation." The Lord wants us to turn to him. So often I worry over a situation and forget to even bring it before the Lord. Nothing is too small for He can name the stars and every hair of our heads!
I need to say something about the Saints that we celebrate today, but it is also Valentine's day. Cyril and Methodius were born in 9th century Greece. They became missionaries after teaching and holding government positions.They went to what is now Ukraine and then to Moravia. Cyril devised an alphabet to make the liturgy and scriptures available in the Slavonic language. Cyril died on a trip to Rome but Methodius was consecrated a biship and returned to Moravia. Both were declared patrons of Europe by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
I would have loved to have sent more valentines this year as it is a way of showing others that you do care for them and it is always good to feel loved! I arrived in Chile on February 14, 1960 and thought that God sent me as a valentine to show his love to others.
In the Gospel today when Jesus saw the crowd that had followed him had hunger as they had been with him for three days, he said to his disciples: "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance."
Jesus himself tells us that his heart is moved with pity; it is a heart that is full of love and compassion for others. When the disciples say that no one can get bread enough to satisfy them in that deserted spot, Jesus still asked them, "How many loaves do you have?" They told him they had seven so he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, "taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute... They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also. They ate and were satisfied."
Mark tells us that there were about four thousand people and there were seven baskets of fragments left over!! Then Jesus dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples. He moves on to another region.
These is the second miraculous feeding and the very words describing the actions of Jesus, He gave thanks, broke, gave the bread remind us of the way Jesus feeds us in the Eucharist. His Heart is still moved with compassion and he wants to nourish us to give us strength for the journey.
Jesus had gone into the district of the Decapolis. People brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. Jesus took the deaf man away by himself and apart from the crowd. "He put his fingers into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, 'Ephphatha!'(that is, 'Be opened!')And immediately the man's ears were opened, and his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly."
As one who is deaf due to a high fever in Chile many years ago, I can imagine what the man felt when he was able to hear again. I received new digital hearing aids just a year ago and for the first time in forty years was able to hear a clock ticking in my room! I love the sound! I can also enjoy music again. I have accepted my deafness as a gift for it makes me love silence and solitude, especially after a day with people where I am lip reading most of the time. However, I just keep thinking about the joy of the man who was cured and could both hear and speak because Jesus took the time to heal him. Again, it was the faith of the people who brought him to Jesus. Am I bringing my friends to Jesus in prayer enough?
"Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone." But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, "He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."
Let us bring our friends to Jesus today in prayer and let Jesus take them aside and heal whatever needs healing. And let us thank for the gift of hearing and speech. We take so much for granted. May we not misuse the gifts given us! He does all things well!
The Gospel for this Sunday is Mark 1:40-45 and is one I have always loved for it shows how compassionate Jesus is. It is a short Gospel but has several points: a)"A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, 'If you wish, you can make me clean.'" At that time there were many lepers and they had to keep a distance and even call out "unclean" if someone were to approach them. This leper knows that if he can just kneel before Jesus, Jesus will want to heal him. His faith makes him brave; he cries out, "If you wish, you can make me clean."
b) "Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." Jesus immediately is moved; his heart is full of compassion and he actually reaches out to the leper and touched him! He does want to cure that leper kneeling before him and says to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." He touches him and what must this touch have been for that leper who has been shunned and declared an untouchable!
c)"Then Jesus dismissed him at once and told him: 'See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.'" The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. I suspect that the leper was so full of joy and overflowing gratitude that he could not keep quiet. He wanted others to know what Jesus had done for him. He had to sing his praises as his heart was overflowing. How often am I compelled to praise the Lord for the many miracles of each day?
d)He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere." Jesus seems to have loved the deserted places. He needed to have some time for prayer, but the people kept coming to him from everywhere. And he had pity on them for, as he tells us in another part of Mark's Gospel, "they are sheep without a shepherd." Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he tends his flock wherever they are. They "kept coming to him" - this is what I must do. Jesus will always receive us, always listen to us, always reach out and touch us when we ask him to make us clean!
This is a very popular feast now of Our Lady as we really are aware of not only her Immaculate Conception, but also the fact that Our Lady has worked many healings at Lourdes. It was between February 11 and July 16, 1858, that Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous in a cave near her hometown of Lourdes, France. Now this place has become one of pilgrimage and a place to bring the sick, the lame, those who have incurable diseases for the grotto's spring in Lourdes has been and is the place for many cures in the waters there.
The Gospel today has Jesus speaking to the crowd saying, "Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters a man from outside can defile that person; but the things that come our from within are what defile." When he had left the crowd, his disciples questioned him as they did not really understand. Jesus tells them that what comes from the heart is what can defile. We need to watch our heart. We find that we have both good and evil inside of us. We need to ask Jesus and Mary to keep our hearts pure, full of love and goodness so that we can give love to others. Mary sees what we need; she is very attentive to all her children and always ready to bring our needs to Jesus. She always tells me, as she told the servants at Cana, "Do whatsoever he tells you."
St. Scholastica was the twin sister of St. Benedict. What little we know about her life is found in St. Gregory the Great's book, the second Dialogue, which is an account of Benedict's miracles. It seems that she was buried in Benedict's own tomb where, soon after her death, he was also buried. She is the patroness of Benedictine nuns.
The Gospel today has the Pharisees and scribes gathered around Jesus and, as usual, criticizing because they saw that some of his disciples ate their meals without washing their hands. So they ask Jesus, "Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?" Jesus responds: "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts." Then Jesus went on to say, "How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition!" And he goes on to show them that they nullify the word of God in favor of their tradition.
This Gospel is one that I find rather terrifying. We do have the tendency to criticize! That is bad enough, but we then justify our actions, even to ignoring the commandments of God. How often have I avoided something I know I should do by justifying myself with some custom or tradition that allows me to do what I want rather than what I know I should be doing?
http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif The picture goes with the first reading as we are beginning the Book of Genesis with the creation of the world. I love this reading but will reflect on the Gospel.
The Gospel for today is Mark 6: 53-56: Jesus crosses to the other side of the sea and tied up there. As they were leaving the boat, Jesus is recognized. Then the people "began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. They laid the sick in the marketplaces and "begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed." Mark tells us this happened in "whatever villages or towns or country side he entered."
Sometimes we can feel ourselves overwhelmed by people. They seem to come at us from all sides. There are crowds, meetings, people who surround us; they may make demands on us in person, by phone, or by e-mail. They take our time and energy and patience. It is good to read this Gospel and see how Jesus was besieged with people making demands on his time and energy; Jesus was serene and went about doing good and healing others without thought of self. Yet, he knew the needs of each and did invite his friends to come apart and rest awhile. Each of us must know our own needs and find the silence and solitude that lets us renew our inner life and return to the marketplace with patience, energy, and the ability to heal and help others.
Today is the 49th anniversary of my final Profession made in Rome in 1960. It makes February 8th a very special day for me. From Rome I then went straight to Chile without returning to see my parents. That was hard, especially for them, but I only remember the joy of my Profession Day. As we were about 46 making Profession from all over the world, we had three ceremonies. The English one on February 8th followed by a French ceremony, and then a Spanish and culminating on February 11th with a Jubilee celebration at the Motherhouse. The name of our group is "Apostolic Courage" and has always been an inspiration for me.
Since we are now preparing Sunday on Thursday, I have given my reflection on the wonderful Gospel of today so will now focus on the Psalm (147) and the refrain: "Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted." Praise the Lord, for he is good; sing praise to our God, for he is gracious; it is fitting to praise him. I sometimes think that the gift of the Psalms is really a way to praise God; so many of them do help us to lift our voices to praise the Lord for he is good and gracious and, as this Psalm continues to say: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He tells the number of the stars; he calls each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; to his wisdom there is no limit. The Lord sustains the lowly; the wicked he casts to the ground. I love thinking of the greatness of God, but a God who calls each star by name! He is all-powerful and all-wise and he love us and asks for our trust.
The second reading has Paul telling us that he is impelled to preach the Gospel and "woe to me if I do not preach it." Paul tells us that "I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the Gospel, so that I too may have a share in it." What am I doing to preach the Good News today? This week? This month? I may not be "all things to all" but hope to be some things to some!
Today's Gospel (Mark 6:30-34) has the Apostles gathered together with Jesus. The tell him all they have done and taught. Jesus then says to them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."
Sometime, it is necessary for us, too, to seek that deserted place to rest. Mark tells us that "people were coming and going in great numbers, ad they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. The problem is that people saw them leaving and told others so that the word spread and people "hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them." It is no longer a deserted place! When Jesus saw the vast crowd, "his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things."
Jesus still invites us to come away and rest awhile with him; he also teaches me to have compassion and to welcome people with his love.
Paul was a Japanese Jesuit martyred in Japan with twenty-five companions in Nagasaki on this day in 1527. We know that his companions were clergy, religious, and lay persons. They were suspended on crosses and killed by spears thrust through their hearts. After that Japan was closed to the rest of the world until 1865. The faith survived; Paul Miki said when dying, "I hope my blood might fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain."
the Gospel tells us how Herod thought that Jesus was John whom he had beheaded. Mark tells us the terrible story of the beheading of John. I will not repeat it here, but let us reflect on how much evil we can do and beg Jesus to purify our motives.
The opening prayer for this Sunday's Liturgy is: "Father, watch over your family and keep us safe in your care, for all our hope is in you." I like the simplicity of this prayer; with all the bad news we get everyday about the economy, the unrest, violence, and fighting in so many places, it is good to realize that indeed, all our hope is in God!
The Gospel, Mark 1:29-39, has several points to reflect on: 1. Jesus goes from the Synagogue to the house of Simon and Andrew. James and John are with them so the five of them arrive and find that Simon's mother-in-law is sick with a fever. They immediately turn to Jesus and he takes her by the hand and helps her up. The fever left her and she waited on them. I suspect that she helped serve them a simple Sabbath meal that had been prepared ahead of time.
2. After sunset, when the Jews could travel, the whole town gathered at the door bringing all who were ill or possessed by demons. Jesus cured many and drove out many demons. We know his compassionate heart that went out to those in need. He still wants to heal us and cast out our demons.
3. "Rising very early before dawn, Jesus left and went off to a deserted place where he prayed. This was so important for Jesus to have time to be with his Father. I think that just as we do not know exactly what the day will bring and how God wants us to spend it, Jesus needed to be in touch in a deeper way with his Father in his humanity. Since he was like us in all things, Jesus had to discern where he should go, what he should do and that is one reason he went off to pray alone. I am sure he needed to draw light and strength from his Father.
4. "Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said,'Everyone is looking for you.'" Jesus said, "Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come." So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons. When everyone is looking for him, Jesus moves on to let others know about the Kingdom of God. He is a man with a mission! It is well to remember his need though to go off and pray in quiet places. We all need to do that or at least find some silence so we can hear the voice of God who speaks to our innermost being.
Now this picture really makes you think of Spring. I remember as a novice waiting for the dogwood to bloom and knowing that winter was finally over. Here is Miami we do not have much difference as everything stays green all year, but new leaves do appear and just push the old ones off some of the trees.
Here is a quote for the day from Teilhard de Chardin: "You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience. " I keep going back to that and finding new meanings for my own life.
The Gospel is Matthew 7:7-12 when Jesus tells his disciples, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." This is always consoling to remember that Jesus said this so we would realize that God wants to give us gifts; he wants to be found; and he wants to come into our hearts and dwell there!
The readings for the Second Sunday of Lent are: Genesis 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8:31b-34; and the Gospel is Mark 9:2-10 which is again the Transfiguration of Jesus that we discussed recently. The Response for the Psalm is "I will walk before the LOrd, in the land of the living." I am on Spring Break so not able to reflect but will take the first reading on Abraham being tested by God to sacrifice his son and comment on it for Sunday.
"How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life" This is a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein, a Philosopher. It needs a bit of reflection, but we all have some of those "small thoughts" that take a whole life to fill. When I thought of this, I had a Scripture quote pop into my head: "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Actually, it jumped into my mind in Spanish first and then I thought that this is a quote that can fill my whole life. There is an exercise that one can do to brainstorm about any other quotes, words, phrases, sentences, or Scripture passages that somehow relate to the original small thought you chose to work with - think about how these other quotes or words relate to, expand, or illuminate your understanding of the quote and then maybe think how to paraphrase the verse or see how I can deepen my understanding of it and see how it is having an influence on the way I act in the world...lots to reflect on from one small thought!
I read another quote this morning that I do not want to forget as it may be one to help others. This is from a wise priest who said: "People are like photographs: they develop in the dark."
And one more quote from St. Madeleine Sophie: Ah! If only it were possible, if I were not unworthy, if God would give me the grace, to speak to you of the happiness of the person who gives herself over to the Holy Spirit… completely… whole and entire… with no reservations! If only I could tell you what takes place in her… if I could describe her happiness; it is no longer herself who acts, it is God… every step she takes is by the inspiration of the Spirit… everything becomes easy… she no longer knows difficulty, she meets no more obstacles… The Holy Spirit holds this person captive; the Spirit possesses her, binds her, establishes communication between her and heaven; it is like Jacob’s ladder on which the angels continuously ascend and descend; the good actions, desires, sacrifices of this faithful person mount towards heaven, and the Holy Spirit comes down laden with the new graces that God is pleased to bestow on her. I regret that it is time to end; but if the happiness of the individual open to the Spirit is so great, what would be the happiness of a group of people, of a whole Society that would allow itself to be guided unreservedly by the Holy Spirit. That would be a foretaste of heaven! What peace, what union and, at the same time, what good we would be able to produce. Let us live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, one day at a time. I am glad I am making this a miscellaneous day and think I should do this more often!
St. Blaise was a Bishop in Armenia who suffered martyrdom in the early 4th century. He was supposed to have miraculously cured a boy who was choking to death on a fish bone. Because of this legend, he is associated with cures for afflictions of the throat; the blessing of our throats with the blessed candles takes place on this day in his memory. The Gospel today has Jesus first meeting one of the synagogue officials, Jairus, who fell at the feet of Jesus and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, "My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." Jesus starts off with him with a large crowd around him. There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She came up behind Jesus in the crowd and touched his cloak. Jesus turned around and asked who had touched him. The woman then approached Jesus and fell down before him and told him the truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction." While he was still speaking they came to tell him that the daughter has died; Jesus said to him, "Do not be afraid; just have faith." He did not let anyone accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John. He put everyone else out but took the parents with him and entered the room where the child was and took her by the hand. He said to her, "Talitha koum", which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" The girl arose immediately and walked around. Jesus gave orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.
These two miracles show Jesus healing through compassion and also show a very human side to him. He also is again letting us know how important it is to have faith.
For forty days after a new mother gave birth she was ritually "unclean" and then would need to enter the temple with an offering for her purification. This Feast has had several names, but is now know as the Presentation of the Lord for Mary took her son to present him in the temple according to the law. We are also told of the meeting with Simeon and Anna. The feast began in the 4th century; in the Middle Ages, the feast was called Candlemas and we still bless the candles on this day. My mother always kept blessed candles in the house and would light them when there was a storm. I never seem to think of that now, but remember feeling so safe in the house as soon as my mother lit the candles.
The Gospel for today begins: "When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord... It is forty days since we celebrated the birth of Jesus and he goes to the temple for the first time; later Jesus will identify himself with the temple: he is God's dwelling place among people. Let us follow Mary as she and Joseph go into the temple...
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying, 'Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.'"
Simeon was attentive to the Holy Spirit and so was in the temple when Jesus was brought there by his parents. Such faith though to see immediately in this tiny infant the salvation of all! Now he is ready to die. In the longer version of the Gospel we have the prophecy of Simeon who tells Mary that this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted -"and you yourself a sword will pierce-so that the thoughts of many heart may be revealed."
Anna, advanced in years and a widow who never left the temple, came forward and gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. Then, the Holy Family, having "fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth."
The Preface for the feast says: "Father, all powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord. Today your Son, who shares your eternal splendor, was presented in the temple, and revealed by the Spirit as the glory of Israel and the light of all peoples. Our hearts are joyful, for we have seen your salvation, and now with the angels and saints we praise you for ever."
I wonder what Mary and Joseph thought as they left the temple and started their journey home. I hope their hearts were joyful but Mary would be reflecting on the words of Simeon and would ponder them in her heart.
The Gospel for today is Matthew 25:31-40 when Jesus telss his disciples that; "When the Son of Man comes in his golry, and all the angels with him, he will sit upong his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink...'"
I think this Gospel reminds of us what we are to do during Lent - all the corporal works of mercy...Jesus still says to us today, "Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." I am on Spring Break but hope and pray that this Lent will help me to be a sheep and not a goat when the Son of Man comes in his glory!
As you know by now, I am very fond of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and so pick up on the fact that this Sunday"s Psalm 95 has the verses: "Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides. Oh, that today you would hear his voice: Harden not your hearts..." How do I hear the voice of Jesus? Where do I find his voice? He speaks to us in so many ways: nature, the quiet movement in the depth of our hearts, the voices of others as they come to us even in e-mails, the inspiration that pops into our heads while waiting for the light to turn green, etc. The important thing is to hear his voice and harden not our hearts!
Hello, my name is Helen Rosenthal, RSCJ. Those initials stand for Religious of the Sacred Heart in Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Since my religious congregation began in France in 1800 and now is all over the world, we have kept the RSCJ. By now you know that I am not only known as Dr. Helen Rosenthal, but also as Sister Helen Rosenthal.
I am the oldest of four children. We were all born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. We lived in a big house with a playroom on the third floor. On Sundays we either went to my paternal grandmother's house where her six children would gather faithfully for supper or we would have my mother's father and our great aunt and uncle for a roast beef dinner at home. In summer, I would go to the lake with my Dad and I still love to swim.