The response for the verses taken from Psalm 102 is "O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you." The psalmist continues: "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."
O Lord, hear us today we pray. There is so much that needs fixing in our world and only with Your power can it be accomplished. We are poor instruments and need You.
Jesus tells the Pharisees in the Gospel (John 8: 21-30): "I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come."...."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."
And then comes one of my favorite sayings of Jesus: "He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him." That is what he wants from us: to do always what is pleasing to the Father. We have Jesus with us always to make this possible. He has not left us alone; let us desire with all our hearts to do always what is pleasing to him.
Today's Gospel (John 8:1-11) again shows us how great is the mercy of God. Jesus was teaching in the temple area. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin any more."
Jesus did not even look at the woman when the men brought her before him; when all had left, he forgave her. We need to remember that even a serious sin was forgiven by Jesus and how do we forgive those we know commit such a sin? We are called to be merciful as the Lord is merciful. I also want to know where the man was - the woman was caught in adultery and he is not even mentioned!
Jesus is always going to go to rescue the black sheep that has strayed; he loves each but loves to show his mercy.
The Little Black Book has an interesting note on the Scribes: "The scribes are mentioned 58 times in the Gospels, usually in opposition to Jesus." They were a specific religious group within Judaism. They were simply people who performed a "secretarial" function in all parts of society. Many people could not read let alone write at that time. The scribes copied and kept records for people at all levels. Many worked for the religious leaders.
In today's 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.'"
Just to read this much of the Gospel gives us pause for reflection. We are like the Greeks and want to see Jesus. That is a good desire, but it means that we need to realize that we, too, must die to ourselves to bear fruit. Jesus says, "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."
Then Jesus says, :"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 that an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said to them. "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.
We are left wondering what those Greeks thought. They had not only seen Jesus but perhaps heard the Father's voice. They certainly heard Jesus tell them that this was the time of judgment on this world; they heard him speak of his drawing all to himself when he would be lifted up from the earth. If they really wanted to see Jesus because they were seeking more, they received a great deal in a short time. Are we convinced that we must be like the grain of wheat and die to produce fruit?
St. John Neumann was born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1811. While in the seminary, he decided he wanted to be a missionary in the United States. The Little Black Book tells us that he arrived in New York with one suit of clothes and a dollar in his pocket. Because of the shortage of priests, John was ordained almost immediately and assigned to western New York. He was impressed with the work of the Redemptorist priests in the area and joined them as he wanted to live in a religious community. In 1852, on his 41st birthday, John Neumann became the fourth bishop of Philadelphia. He was a humble man, small of stature, but very active. He established over 80 parishes and promoted Catholic schools. He also wrote two catechisms in German (he spoke six languages). He died at the age of 48 in 1860. He was the first American bishop to be beatified in 1963; he was canonized in 1977.
St. Thomas University in Miami has a great collection of John Neumann's writings. There was a room that I used for giving the 19th annotation retreat and also for spiritual direction and interviewing people that was dedicated to him in the library. I think telling people so often that I would meet them in the Neumann room was the beginning of my devotion to this saint.
This Friday it is time for a Miscellaneous Day! I have had a poem that I have been wanting to share that was written by a holy Religious of the Sacred Heart in Scotland, Sister Nano McHardy. She is dead now and had been deaf for years. This poem had a note that said it was written by Sister McHardy after she knew she was to be completely deaf; I think she was only about 25 years old at the time. She was born in 1903 and only died in 2007 so she had a long life and was noted for her beautiful smile and her loving, impish personality. This poem has a refrain worth repeating and reflecting upon: Refrain: "His will is my cell and my solitude His Love,I have found my heaven above.
Imprisoned in this cell so free, so free am I As soaring song of lark unfettered in the sky. There is no power of friend or foe can bind or capture me. For in His Will I'm in the Truth, And the Truth shall set me free.
Refrain: "His will is my cell and my solitude His Love,I have found my heaven above.
My solitude is sweeter Than the comp'ny of the wise, For Love transformed my desert Into a paradise. Where streams of grace break out and flow And lilies bud and bloom, And a beggar-maid becomes a Bride To the Son of God--her Groom.
Refrain: "His will is my cell and my solitude His Love,I have found my heaven above.
This Sunday is the Fifth Sunday of Lent. The opening prayer is: "Father, help us to be like Christ your Son, who loved the world and died for our salvation. Inspire us by his love, guide us by his example, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The First Reading is from Jeremiah 31:31-34, the Second Reading is from Hebrews 5:7-9, and the Gospel is John 12: 20-33.
The Response for the Psalm is Create a clean heart in me, O God."
I am going to comment on the first reading from Jeremiah today as it was a passage I spent time with in my month of prayer last summer. "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... It ends with the Lord telling us that "I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.'
The Lord has done everything to call us back to Him. He gave us a new covenant that places his desire for us within us; it is written upon our hearts. He is our God and we belong to Him! And God is a forgiving God who loves us!
December 25 was the date to celebrate the birth of Christ by the fourth century; then a feast was celebrated for the conception of Jesus on March 25. It is a feast that is worth meditating on over and over again. According to Luke, "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." What a wealth of information is contained in that one sentence even before we know why God sent Gabriel to this little town of Nazareth.
When the angel greets Mary, she "was greatly troubled" and pondered what sort of greeting this might be for the angel had said to her, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." We greet Mary with these same words ever time we say the "Hail Mary"; it is a prayer that pleases her now. I think being greeted by an angel would upset anyone. Gabriel hastens to tell her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God." I think we hear those same words often in our own hearts as Jesus is always coming to tell us not to fear for we are loved by God. However, the rest of the message was a startling one that has become one of the great and joyful mysteries of our faith. "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."
Mary, after asking how this can be possible, accepts and the course of the world is changed. God becomes man! May we feel awe, gratitude, love and joy as we contemplate this great mystery. May we also learn to trust God and his mysterious ways.
The entrance antiphon is "Come to the waters, all who thirst; though you have no money, come and drink with joy." (Isaiah 55:1)
The first reading from Ezechiel 47 is where he sees water flowing from the temple towards the East. The water continues to rise until it is a river. Then the angel tells Ezechiel that "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."
I love the image of the river with fruit trees that bear fresh fruit every month. I guess we are like those trees as we are rooted in the living waters that flow from the Heart of Christ. Maybe a monthly retreat would help us to see the fresh fruit of each month!
The Gospel is about the healing pool of Bethesda where Jesus saw the man that had been there waiting for the healing waters thirty-eight years. Jesus asked him, "Do you want to be well?" Then, when the man had replied that he had no one to help him into the water, Jesus told him, "Take up your mat and walk." He did, but it was the sabbath so Jesus is again in trouble with the Pharisees for doing good on the sabbath. Later he finds the man and tells him, "do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you." The man told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well and they "began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath."
I had the thought that Sunday would be a good day to try to make reparation for all the times Jesus must have been hurt by the attitude of the Pharisees every time he cures someone on the sabbath. He tried hard to show them that the sabbath was made for man, for us to care for one another and do good. Sundays in Lent help us to return to a healthy observance of the sabbath.
I must confess that I knew nothing about this holy man who was born in Spain, was a law professor in Salamanca and chief judge in the Inquisition of Granada. None of which sounded especially holy to me. Then he was appointed as a layman to be Archbishop of Lima, Peru in 1580. He protested this irregularity, but Pope Pius V dispensed him from the usual process and he was ordained and consecrated bishop. He was very good for Peru; he condemned abuses, founded schools, hospitals, and churches, and the first seminary in Latin America. He learned the native languages and was a much-loved teacher and preacher. He was canonized in 1726. He is now the patron saint of the Latin American bishops as well as a patron saint of Peru.
In the Gospel (John 4:43-54) Jesus goes to Galilee and returned to Cana. A royal official, whose son was still in Capernaum, went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son who was near death. Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe." The royal official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "You may go; your son will live."
While I was typing this, I began to think about how Jesus felt. He was responding to a father and telling him that his son will live. Yet, he knows that he is going to die and die on a cross like a common criminal. I think there was a great deal of emotion in the heart of Jesus that we sometimes miss as we read the Gospel.
In the sign of the cross we see into the heart of God: mercy and compassion, not condemnation. Anyone who but looks with the eyes of faith to God will be saved." The above is a quote from Michael Traher from a reflection he wrote for this Fourth Sunday of Lent.
Paul tells us in Ephesians that "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--..." Then Paul says '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."
How often do I thank for the gift of salvation, the gift of faith? I cannot save myself! Thank God that he is always saving us. (See Thursdays reflections where the Sunday readings are given ahead of time so we may prepare them and reflect on God's word.)
I love this image and it says much to me about the wonder of children and what it means for us to be childlike. I am away for a few days to visit a friend but am scheduling these posts up to the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lady so there will be something to reflect upon each day.
Today's Gospel (Luke 18:9-14) has the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Both went up to the temple to pray; but how different the prayer of each was! Jesus tells us the the Pharisee "Took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.' But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayer, 'O God be merciful to me a sinner.'"
When I was a young Religious just after my first vows, I had a visit from a very holy Jesuit cousin. His angel must have been in communication with mine for I always knew when he had come to visit me even before someone came to call me; I even sensed when a letter from him was arriving -- this is the only person that I have had this kind of telepathy with but it was extraordinary! Anyway, he told me that day that his prayer had been for a long time only "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner." This same Jesuit was one of the most apostolic persons I have ever known, and he was also a man of prayer. Sometimes now my prayer, too, is Lord, be merciful to me a sinner."
"I am the Lord your God: hear my voice." This is the response today for the Psalm verses from Psalm 81. "If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways.." The Lord is always asking us to hear his voice. Do we want to? Or am I afraid of what God may be saying to me?
In today's Gospel (Mark 12:28-34) Jesus replies to the scribe who asked him which is the greatest of all the commandments by quoting from Deuteronomy. It is part of the prayer called the Shema that is said by the Jewish people even today. Jesus would have learned this prayer as a child and speaks these words from the depths of his heart. "Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God is Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." Want to pray a prayer Jesus said every day? Pray this one.
Then Jesus adds that the second greatest commandment is "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Today is the halfway mark between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Let us hurry to make this Lent a special time with the Lord.
Joseph was a just man and he could not understand how Mary was with child when they had not yet come together. He did not know what to do. He thought that the best thing would be to divorce Mary quietly. After he had discerned that this was the best solution, God spoke to him in a dream through the voice of an angel who told him: "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."
That must have taken faith to believe in the dream. However, Joseph believed and took Mary and then his life was really changed. The Little Black Book speaks of the messiness of it all, but out of this mess was going to come the beautiful story of the Savior's birth.
Joseph is a silent man. We do not have even one word of his. This is something to think about, too. He was silent and obedient.
Now to prepare a bit for the 4th Sunday of Lent, the Readings are: 2 Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23; Ephesians, 2:4-10; and John 3:14-21.
In the Gospel, Jesus says to Nicodemus: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that 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."
Lord, help us to always believe; increase our faith. We call out "Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief." St. Joseph was a silent man, but a man of faith.
Cyril was ordained in Jerusalem in 345. He was well-educated and a biblical scholar. Within five years of his ordination, he was made Bishop of Jerusalem. This was a troubled time with political and doctrinal controversies following the Nicene Council. Cyril defended the Nicene Creed against the Arians. He is best known for his twenty-three Lenten homilies of instruction for those to be baptized during the Easter vigil; in his homilies we find a summary of the beliefs and theological traditions of the Jerusalem community. St. Cyril was named a doctor of the Church.
The opening prayer today is "Lord, during this Lenten season nourish us with your word of life and make us one in love and prayer.
In the Gospel (Matthew 5:17-19 Jesus tells us that he has not come to abolish the law or the prophets. "I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." He then warns his disciples about breaking the least of the commandments. As always, there is a positive note for Jesus says, "But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven."
Patrick was kidnapped at age sixteen by pirates who took him to Ireland as a slave. He was a shepherd in the mountains but escaped after six years. He returned to Britain and became a priest. Pope Celestine then sent him back to Ireland as a missionary. He was made a bishop and managed to establish a native clergy; before his death in 461, Christianity had spread throughout Ireland. Later the Irish would spread the faith in other countries.
I grew up in St. Louis where Cardinal Glennon always gave permission to eat meat on St. Patrick's feast and not fast. I am three-fourths Irish; my maternal grandmother was a Lightholder and there are still Lightholders in Ireland living on the original farm that has had Lightholders there on Lightholder lane since the 18th century; my maternal grandfather was a McLaughlin and my mother always said the family was Scotch-Irish. My Dad's mother was a Murphy and really Irish to the core, although she married a Rosenthal. My grandfather McLaughlin could sing all the Irish ballads and usually just needed a couple of beers to hold forth on the feast of St. Patrick! It is a day to celebrate all the Irish!
The response for the Psalm is "Remember your mercies, O Lord." From Psalm 25: "Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.
Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your kindness are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord.
Good and upright is the Lord; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way.
The Gospel has Jesus telling Peter that he must forgive "not seven time but seventy-seven times."
Mercy must be measureless. We are to be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful; that means an infinite amount of mercy!
The opening prayer for today's liturgy is: "God of mercy free your church from sin and protect it from evil. Guide us, for we cannot be saved without you."
In the Gospel (Luke 4:24-30), Jesus reminds those in the synagogue in his own home town, Nazareth, that "no prophet is accepted in his own native place." He gives them the example of the widow in the land of Sidon who was helped by Elijah, although there were many widows in Israel; and then the example of the many lepers in Israel, but Elisha only took care of curing the Syrian, Naaman. When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. "But he passed through the midst of them and went away."
Imagine how Jesus feels; his people, those of his own hometown, want to kill him. He who had lived among them helping and befriending them is now driven out of town. This was his home and they want to cast him off, hurl him over a cliff. They turned against him. "But Jesus passed through their midst and went away."
Psalm 42 is one I love: "As the deer longs for the running waters, so my soul longs for you, O God." The response is "Athrist is my soul for the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?" It would make a good prayer to repeat as we go about today.
The first reading from Exodus tells us to remember God's commandments: 1. You shall not have other gods beside me. 2. You shalt not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. 3. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. 4. Honor your father and your mother. 5. Thou shalt not kill. 6. You shalt not commit adultery. 7. You shalt not steal. 8. You shalt not bear false witness. 9. You shalt not covet your neighbor's house. 10. You shalt not covet your neighbor's wife or anything that belongs to him.
The first three are about God and it seems to me that we pay less attention to them. For instance, how often do we examen outselves about how we keep holy the sabbath? Or what about the first commandment and the idols I find in my life? These first three might be more important in God's eyes than we realize. We tend to sort of pass over them quickly to look at our sins against the other seven.
There is plenty to reflect upon as we keep holy the sabbath!
How do I see things as they really are? I need only to ask, "How does God see this?"
Today's Gospel (Luke 15:1-3,11-32) has Jesus telling this parable to the Pharisees and scribes. It is a parable we often name "the Prodigal Son" but Jesus emphasizes that the father had two sons. When the younger one asks for his share of the estate, the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son leaves...(we are aware of his wasting his inheritance and finding himself in such dire need that he ends up tending swine and longing to eat the pods fed to the swine.) Meanwhile, the father is watching each day hoping to see his son return.Finally, he catches sight of him and is "filled with compassion." He runs to his son, embraces him and kisses him. He orders his servants to bring the finest robe for his son, sandals for his feet, and a ring for his finger. He wants to celebrate with a feast because his son was lost and now is found! The parable also speaks of the relationship of the father with the older son who was angry and refusing to enter the house. His father comes out and pleads with him. "My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found."
Sometimes I seem to be both sons; the important thing is to know that the Father loves me!
I read in the Little Black Book for Lent (inspired by the late Bishop Ken Untener) that the Catholic Church is credited with popularizing the tradition of fish fries on Lenten Fridays.
Here are a few quotes that fit a miscellaneous day: "Prayer is simply opening oneself to the presence of God and letting the rest happen."
"Contemplation is simply being in the presence of God and knowing it."
"I should bring to mind some of my enemies. Then I should turn to the Lord and ask, 'How do you relate to these people?' Then the Lord and I need to have a talk.
These are from the Little Black Book but here is a longer meditation that I like:
Taken from an excerpt from Catherine Doherty on Prayer ( March Magnificat, pp. 70-71)
Desire, Prayer, and Love
“This business of desire is very important. Man usually follows his desires. Do you really desire to pray? Do you desire to live the Gospel? If I desire I will usually fulfill my desire. We desire all kinds of things but unfortunately we don’t desire that which we need so much: prayer and loving presence….
“It is our tremendous responsibility to live the Gospel. There are treatises on prayer everywhere, all complicated stuff. But prayer is a simple thing. It is a love affair between God and you, and you don’t have to explain it. If you love God no explanation is needed. You have a boyfriend, you talk to him. You don’t have to write out all that the boyfriend said and all that you said; it’s not necessary. The same thing with prayer. Prayer is a love affair and it is prayer that gives us strength to live the Gospel. But the question is: do we want to? The majority say that it is an impossibility and yet if we lived the Gospel the world would change. Isn’t that funny—your power, you and me, ordinary people, small people—we can do it. We have the power to change the world. But we refuse to live as Christ said we should live.
Prayer is conversation with God. It does not require a thousand books. It requires a simple and tremendous love of God and a total simplicity. I am beloved by God. He created me. This is the first idea. And he wants to be loved by me. We have to get that into our heads. Then we proceed to tell him we love him.”
Today's Gospel deserves a reflection before we turn to Sunday. Jesus tells the Pharisees about the rich man who dined sumptuously each day; and he tells them about the poor man named Lazarus, who would gladly have eaten the scraps thrown to the dogs. Lazarus dies and is carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died but went to the netherworld and was in torment. He cried out and desired to have Lazarus come to cool his tongue with a drop of water. Abraham told his that he had received what was good during his lifetime and now there was a great chasm to prevent anyone from crossing. Then the rich man wanted his five brothers to be warned. Abraham told him, "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead." There is a lesson in this story for all of us. Who are those at our door who need our help now?
The Sunday Readings are: Exodus 20:1-17; I Corinthians 1: 22-25; John2:13-25
Let us look at the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent. Jesus went up to Jerusalem since the Passover of the Jews was near. He went to the temple and then we have a scene that seems so different from all the others scenes of Jesus: "He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and over-turned their tables,and to those who sold doves he said, 'Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace.' His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, 'What sign can you show us for doing this?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.'...when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken...." I have not copied all of it as John also tells us how many began to believe in his name, "but Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all..."
Are we comfortable with the image of Jesus in Sunday's Gospel? This is the same compassionate Jesus who has been healing and blessing all; now we see his anger. Jesus is human and like us in all things except sin. He shows very human emotions!
This is a gospel that challenges us to look at what Jesus might want to drive out or overturn in us. Let us invite Jesus to cleanse our lives of anything that needs to be banished from our hearts and lives. Lent is the time to do some serious thinking about what needs to be changed in our own lives!
The entrance antiphon for today's Mass jumped out at me: "Do not abandon me, Lord. My God do not go away from me! Hurry to help me, Lord, my Savior."
Are you feeling like crying out the same? I love the "Hurry to help me" as though God were not more present to me than I am to myself.
In the opening prayer we ask the Father to "teach us to live good lives, encourage us with your support and bring us to eternal life."
The Gospel is from Matthew 20:17-28. Jesus is going up to Jerusalem and again took the Twelve aside by themselves and said to them: "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day." Jesus predicts his Passion and death with accuracy but also announces his resurrection. It is too much for the Apostles and they do not seem to grasp what Jesus is telling them. Instead, the mother of James and John comes to ask if her sons can sit in the places of honor when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Jesus says, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" When they reply in the affirmative, Jesus tells them that they will indeed drink his chalice, but to sit at his right and his left it not for him to decide; it is for those for whom it has been prepared by the Father. The others are now indignant and so Jesus again needs to tell them: "Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Jesus speaks clearly; are we really listening? Do we understand what he is trying to say to us even today?
I love this picture. Contemplation is looking with wonder and awe. The Gospel today is from Matthew 23:1-12 and is a call to humility. Jesus tells his disciples to observe all things that the Scribes and Pharisees tell them, but do not follow their example. "For they preach and do not practice." Jesus also says that all their works are performed to be seen...they love places of honor..."
The Gospel ends with Jesus telling us, "The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
Thomas Merton said, "It takes heroic humility to be yourself and to be nobody but the person that God intended you to be."
One of my very favorite quotations from St. Madeleine Sophie is "Be simple. Be humble and bring joy to others."
Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him who has no voice, and yet who speaks in everything that is, and who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of his. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. It is a deep resonance in the inmost center of our spirit in which our very life loses its separate voice and re-sounds with the majesty and the mercy of the Hidden and Living One....
It is awakening, enlightenment, and the amazing intuitive grasp by which love gains certitude of God's creative and dynamic intervention in our daily life. Hence contemplation does not simply "find" a clear idea of God and confine Him within the limits of that idea, and hold Him there as a prisoner to Whom it can always return. On the contrary, contemplation is carried away by Him into His own realm, His own mystery, and His own freedom”
I think this is from one of my students in my on-line Program who has been reading the Cloud of Unknowing and may be quoting Thomas Merton. I just thought it would be good to put here since I was on Spring Break and trying to practice contemplation myself. For me, it is allowing God to love me and just trying to be with him in the depths of his Heart.
The Gospel today is from Luke 6: 36-38; Jesus said to his disciples: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you." That is a powerful Gospel and certainly a call to each of us to be merciful, non-judgmental, and generous.
We are made in the image of God. Think about this as we listen to Jesus say to us, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful...."
Let us look first at the Preface for the Second Sunday of Lent. "Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord. On you holy mountain he revealed himself in glory in the presence of his disciples. He had already prepared them for his approaching death. He wanted to teach them through the Law and the Prophets that the promised Christ had first to suffer and so come to the glory of his resurrection. In our unending joy we echo on earth the song of the angels in heaven as they praise your glory for ever: Holy, holy..." Here we see suggested the reason that Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him. We are also being prepared for the approaching death of Jesus and the whole Paschal Mystery.
The readings were given on Thursday and we have spoken about the Gospel of the Transfiguration recently. Still, it is a great mystery and worth contemplating again. Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. They followed him. It may have been a beautiful day and they loved being with Jesus and so happily followed him up the mountain; they may also have been tired, hot, dusty and wishing Jesus would stop and let them rest. We do not know what they were feeling, but they were following Jesus up the mountain.
Then Mark tells us, "And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white..." Mark is at a loss to describe how Jesus looked when transfigured, but does tell us about his clothes which became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. The Apostles are astonished for Elijah and Moses appeared to them and they were conversing with Jesus. We do not know what they were talking about, but Peter speaks up and wants to make three tents for them. Then comes the cloud and from the cloud a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." And then they saw no one but Jesus alone with them. It was an experience that they never forgot and Peter will write about it later. For now, Jesus does not want them to tell anyone until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.
Let us go up on the mountain with Jesus and let us listen to him. That is what prayer is all about. We listen to Jesus; we stay with him; we follow him.
Both Perpetua and Felicity were martyrs in North Africa. Perpetua kept a diary and we have eye-witnesses providing us with a vivid picture of her death. Perpetua refused to listen to the pleadings of her father and the need of her infant son. Felicity, a slave, was pregnant but gave birth prematurely and so was also executed. Both had been baptized while under arrest; both refused to renounce the faith. After being flogged, the Christians were exposed to wild beasts and then beheaded. May we have some of their courage today.
In today's Gospel, Jesus asks us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. He asks, "For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? He tells that our heavenly Father makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. So, we are to love all. It is easier to say than to do, but Christ showed us how to love one's enemies and gives us the grace to follow his example.
I love this poem found on the back of a memorial card so I am copying it for you:
God looked around His garden and found an empty place. He looked down upon the earth and saw your tired face. He put His arms around you and lifted you to rest. God's garden must be beautiful; He always takes the best. He knew that you were suffering; He knew that you were in pain. He knew that you would never get well on earth again. He saw the road was getting rough; and the hills were hard to climb. So he closed your weary eyelids and whispered "Peace be thine". It broke our hearts to lose you but you didn't go alone for part of us went with you The day God called you home.
Today is the First Friday of the month and dedicated to the love of the Heart of Jesus. He so loves us, but he also longs for us to love him in return. Let us try to remember today to tell Jesus often how much his love for us means to each of us.
The Gospel today is the Transfiguration of Jesus from Mark 9:2-10. As we have recently reflected on this scene, perhaps we could look instead at the other readings. The first reading is from Genesis 22 when God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son. The second reading is from Paul's Letter to the Romans, 8: 31b-34. Paul asks, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?"
He goes on to ask, "Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died-or, rather, was raised-who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us."
That is a consoling reading. If God is for us, who can be against us? We have God on our side and we have Christ who intercedes for us. What more do we want?
The response for Psalm 116 is "I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living."
More on Sunday! Remember, please, that I am in retreat these days of Spring Break and keep me in your prayer.
This is another one of my favorite pictures. Water is a special image for me and I love to be near the ocean. I suspect I will have been there yesterday as please remember that I am on Spring Break and on my way to the Cenacle today.
To continue with the attitudes mentioned by our Mother General in her conference, the third one is a transparency before God inspired by that of Sophie who longed to live her life always open to the Spirit. If you remember, I shared that I wanted to live this year in joy and gratitude and transparency! I was thinking more perhaps of being transparent before God and others, but I see that it means living open to the Spirit. I shall reflect on my efforts at transparency while in Gainesville! Again, be assured that all of you, known and unknown, are in my prayer.
Today is the Feast of St. Casimir, a 15th century Polish prince who chose a life of celibacy and asceticism. He was known for his care for the poor and his sense of justice. Today's Gospel is Luke 11:29-32 but you can do you own reflection and I shall just copy here this lovely bit from Teresa of Avila: "Let nothing disturb you, nothing affright you; all things are passing, God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for; one who possesses God finds nothing lacking: God alone suffices."
I love this image and use it for prayer as it is a deep pool with a special cleft in the rock at the bottom that leads me into the Heart of Jesus.
I was praying over a conference that our Mother General gave to our nuns who made their final profession in 2009. She told them that there are some attitudes that we hope will mark the whole of our lives. One is a deep desire to know God, with the longing of the deer who thirst for fresh water; another is an openness which invites God into the whole of you, letting you receive with all your being the loving gaze of God, letting you accept the more vulnerable parts of yourself, letting God shape and mold you.
Those two attitudes give us enough to reflect on today and I shall continue tomorrow!
Today is also the Feast of St. Katharine Drexel who was born to a wealthy Philadelphian family; she grew up with her sisters loving God and those in need. When her parents died, Katharine, at the age of 30, entered the Sisters of Mercy with the intention of founding her own order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, which she did in 1891. Her order was to work among African and Native Americans and she used her wealth to establish schools and missions both in the South and on Indian reservations. She had a severe heart attack in 1935 and spent the last twenty years of her life in retirement. She was 97 when she died and she was canonized in 2000, just 45 years after her death.
The Gospel is Matthes 6:7-15 and Jesus tells his disciples that when they pray they are not to babble..."Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." He then teaches them the "Our Father".
Jesus tells his disciples in today's Gospel: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'"
This is a powerful Gospel as Jesus makes it quite clear that "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."
We are called to help others and we need to do these corporal works of mercy now so that we may be sheep on the right and not goats at the time of judgment. Lent is a time of conversion so let us begin today!
I will be driving to Gainesville on Wednesday to spend three nights in the Cenacle there to see my spiritual director and begin Lent with some days of prayer. It seems the best way to spend my Spring break this year; actually, because my international on-line Program in Spirituality Studies never gets a Spring break, I have not really taken one for years. Now it seems good to do so and give myself a break from the computer. My entries will be scheduled ahead until I return on March 9th. I shall keep all my readers in prayer and hope you enjoy the Spring photos and the quotes!
Here is Charles de Foucauld's prayer which I love even if it is for strong souls: Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.
I did prepare Sunday last Thursday, but here are the other readings: Genesis 9:8-19) and 1 Peter 3:18-22. The first reading has God renewing the covenant with Noah. In the second reading, Peter tells us that Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.
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.