Saturday, March 11 - MT 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Reflection by Denna Cheramie
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES! BE PERFECT! Jesus sure doesn't make it easy for us.
Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, He tells us that if someone strikes us, we should turn the other cheek. But, now, He takes it to a higher level and wants us to love them. Why does He want us to do this? Jesus not only was a master carpenter and a good shepherd, but He must have also been an excellent therapist! He knew that there would always be difficult people in our lives, and He knew that if our hearts were full of hatred and negativity, of condemnation and hurt, we could not be at peace with ourselves - we could not reach perfection within ourselves.
So we pray with the words of Mother Theodore Guerin, "Do not require of everybody the same virtues and qualities. Bear with the defects of others. Endeavor not to cause others to suffer and you yourself try to endure the little annoyances which are unavoidable in the necessary relations with others. Charity does not consist in loving one or two persons and being indifferent to all the rest."
Friday, March 10 - MT 5: 20-26
Jesus said to his disciples: "I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny."
Reflection by Sr. Denis Rodrique, O.Carm.
This is a passage from the Sermon on the Mount which contains the Beatitudes. Today's reading is about repentance for the wrongs we have done which guarantees God's mercy.
Jesus is not saying that the Commandments and all just laws are not important for us to observe. What Jesus is trying to teach us is that real virtue is in the heart, i.e. it is not enough to obey just the letter of the law.
We know the commandment not to kill. Jesus tells us that even hatred and anger, violence in the heart (often expressed by abusive language) must also be avoided. We cannot have one kind of relationship with God and another kind of relationship with people. St. John reminds us in his letters that if we say we love God but we hate our brother or sister, we are liars.
Jesus wants to soften our hearts with love and not with anger, envy or jealousy. We need to bring our hurts and disappointments to Jesus who can change our heart when we find it hard to change our feelings. I like St. John of the Cross's quotation about judgment when we die. He said that when we die we will be judged on LOVE. During Lent let us ask the following questions often: How and how much have I loved? How can I express love as Jesus commanded us to love others?
When we pray the Our Father, how conscious are we when we say "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Do we really want God to forgive us the way we forgive our neighbor??? Shortly after praying the Lord's Prayer during Mass we are invited to share a sign of peace with those around us. The meaning of the sign of peace is the way we approach the Lord's Table to receive the Bread which is a sign of our unity with all members of the Body of Christ. Do I receive Holy Communion and return to my place conversing with Jesus or looking at my friends unaware of the person who has given me his very life???
Lord Jesus, my heart is cold. Make it warm, compassionate, and forgiving towards all, even those who do me harm. Help me to think and say what is pleasing to you and be of kind service to all I meet.
Reflect on the following:
How many there are who know that they have sinned against another and yet are unwilling to say: "Forgive me." They were not ashamed to sin, but they are ashamed to ask pardon. They were not ashamed of their evil act, but they blush where humility is concerned What do I do when I have hurt someone?
"Are you ashamed to ask pardon?" (St. Augustine)
Can I say the last words Jesus spoke just before he died: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
I adore you, O Christ and I praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the word.
Thursday, March 9 - MT 7: 7-12
Jesus said to 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. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets."
Reflection by Mitzi Court
Bacchus Sunday, I found myself surrounded by family and friends on Saint Charles Avenue. I was enjoying experiencing the parade through the eyes of my 2.5 year old godchild, Jill. An aunt commented on my relationship with this child, remarking on how direct she is in her questions to me, and her persistence in seeking me out so that she can voice her needs to me. Reflecting back on that afternoon, I thought about how freely and unabashedly comfortable this child is asking her "Nanny" for help. At this age, she isn't insecure of what others will think of her request, or afraid of being told no. She already understands that I want to give her the world, and trusts that I would move mountains to bring her joy. Reflecting on our afternoon together, I realized that this is the personification of this gospel in my life today. If I, who am wicked, know how to give the gift of love to this child when she asks for it, how much more will my heavenly father give to me when I ask it of him?
Meditating on this gospel, searching for its relevance in my world today, and understanding this gospel more more fully because of its relevance to my life today has brought to surface a new faith-based goal for me to focus on this Lent. I've been inspired by the faith of a child to develop a more trusting "child-like" faith. I want to be so supremely comfortable in the love that my God has for me, that I leave my insecurities at the door when I meet my maker in prayer. I don't want to question myself, like we so often do in adulthood. I want to trust in the knowledge that my God will give me what I ask for when it is it is right for me, and I want to rejoice with child-like exuberance when my God opens a door for me as a result of my knocking.
This gospel reading ends being told to "Do unto others whatever you would have them do to you." Going forward into the Lenten season, let's focus on taking the time to notice the way others model the love of Christ in our day to day lives, and to consciously continue to model God's love to others. An awareness and commitment to put Christ at the center of all of our relationships is a beautiful gift to the communities we live in.
Wednesday, March 8 - LK 11:29-32
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here."
Reflection by Phillip Garside
In Today's Gospel Jesus says that the only sign his audience will receive is the "sign of Jonah. There are two signs to be considered here. The first sign takes place just before Jonah arrives in Nineveh. At this point in the story he is famously swallowed by a large fish. If you pay attention to his prayer in chapter 2, it transitions from how God saved him from the "whale belly situation" that he was in, to how God saved him from the "death situation" that he was in, praying as if he had actually died. This is not an out of place literary leap given that there are many references to sub-aquatic states being death states in the Judeo-Christian tradition, not the least of which is full immersion baptism, where one dies to this world and rises in Christ. And indeed Jonah emerges from the whale after three days, just as Christ emerges from the tomb after three days. In this way one clear "sign of Jonah" is the resurrection.
After Jonah emerges from the whale he goes on to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. He tells the Ninevites that the destruction of God is coming unless they repent. If they repent God may still relent his judgment. Jonah only makes it one third of the way through the city before the entire town converts from the king to the cattle. The second sign of Jonah concerns the effectiveness of the Gospel (the good news) as a sign of mercy. Jonah, as the deliverer of this message becomes the sign of God's mercy to them and prefigures the rapid conversion of the gentiles as portrayed in Luke's second work in the New Testament, Acts of the Apostles.
As we fast pray and prepare for Easter during lent, we should not lose sight of the ultimate end of the season. The miracle of Easter is the sign of Jonah, a sign of resurrection and mercy that draws all people to God.
Tuesday, March 7 - MT 6:7-15
Jesus said to his disciples: "In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. "This is how you are to pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. "If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
Reflection by Sue Buras
Yes, you say it probably every day and you know it by heart, but what does it mean? Do you know? Have you ever thought about it? Maybe now is the time to think about it. I remember when I first started giving retreats, I had the students read this interpretation of the Our Father. This is the best explanation I have ever seen.
"Our Father in heaven".
Don't interrupt me. I'm praying!
But you called me!
Called you? I did not call you. I'm just saying my prayers. It makes me feel good, kind of like getting a duty done.
"Hallowed be your name"
Okay, so what does that mean?
It means... it means... Good grief, I really do not know. Help me here.
It means honored, holy, and wonderful.
Well, that makes sense. I really never thought of what hallowed meant before.
"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Do you really mean that?
Sure, why not?
What are you doing about it?
Doing? I go to Church.
That isn't what I asked you. What about bad habits-- your temper? How you spend your weekends?
Stop picking on me. I'm just as good as a lot of other people who go to Church.
Excuse me! I thought you were just praying for My will to be done. If that is to happen it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it-like you!
Oh, all right. I guess I do have some problems. You are right. I need to change my habits especially my weekend activities and my temper.
Good, now we are getting somewhere! We'll work together.
Look Lord, I don't mean to be rude, but I need to finish up here.
"Give us today our daily bread"
You are on a diet aren't you? And you are still praying for bread?
Hey, wait a minute. What is this, "criticize me day?" Here I am just saying my prayers and you start bugging me.
But you see praying is a dangerous thing. You could end up changed. That is what I am trying to get you to see. Well, carry on.
Scared of what?
I know what you are going to say.
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"
What about your friends?
See. I knew it. I knew you would bring them up. They hurt me. They posted things about me that were not true. Even my parents heard about it. It was awful.
But your prayer? What about your prayer?
I did not mean it okay.
Well, at least you are honest. But it can't be much fun carrying all that anger inside you.
No, but I will feel better as soon as I get even. God, wait 'till they...woops, sorry. I mean, I didn't really mean what I said God.
There you go again, don't you ever mean it when you use my name? And this revenge business, you know it won't really make you feel any better, but I can change how you feel.
You can, how?
But, Lord, I can't forgive.
Then, I can't forgive you!
But Lord that is not fair. Look at what they did.
But will you really feel any better if you get revenge? And will you be any different from them? People can be mean. They need to be pitied not hated. I truly want you to be happy and I know your plan won't really make you happy. And if you bring yourself to forgive them, and show them, then they can start to work on their own hurts and turn their lives around.
I suppose you're right. I really don't enjoy feeling this way about people, and if I just hurt them back the whole thing just keeps going. But it is HARD to forgive.
I never said it would be easy, but I am here to help you, you always forget that. You are not alone in this. When you try to do the loving thing, I will always be there to help. And remember I did not say you had to like them, just try to forgive them. Well, let's get back to the prayer.
"And do not subject us to the final test; but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your father forgive your transgressions."
Good, I'll do that; just don't put yourself where you know you can be tempted.
Do what? I don't understand.
I'll help you be strong if you make the right decisions. For example, some of those 'friends' of yours! They are always getting you in trouble, but you still hang around with them. Anyway, then you just call on me when you are in a mess. I am here always to help you. Where is your responsibility? When I did help, you soon forgot your promises to me. Your life went on without me as usual.
Oh, you're right. I know I just try to use you as a way out. I guess I have no right to ask for help if I am not willing to try myself, to do my part. I just never thought of it like that before.
That is all right. I am here to teach you not to condemn you. I love you!
Thank you God. I really didn't think about you when I prayed. I will try to forgive more, to pray words I really mean, to make better decisions. And I know I will continue to mess up, but I DO believe you are there and you will always be there to help me. Thank you God!
You are welcome and remember-- you can't fool me. I know you inside and out, all the love and the hurt, the confusion and the worry and I love you just as you are. But I also see all that you could be and do, and I want so much for you to be your very best. So let's work together from now on!
So now when you recite the Our Father-look inside and God will be there! Always! Amen!
Monday, March 6 - MT 25:31-46
Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Reflection by Matt Stevens
Very few of us are unfamiliar with this passage and its main message. We express our love for God through love of neighbor, particularly through the poor and vulnerable neighbor. This is how we are called to love our King, by loving His down and out subjects! I've never lived in a kingdom or under a monarchy, but I can imagine how strange this parable must have sounded to Jesus' first century audience. I am willingly to bet some listening in the crowd thought to themselves, "What? That's not how you do it! You express devotion to a king through sending tributes, lavish gifts, and declarations of praise directly to the king." But no, Jesus says, we show our devotion to the Highest One through our devotion to the "least ones." This reminds me of the first Christmas and how the finest gifts were poured out upon our newborn King who was born to those "least ones," (a poor refugee family temporarily housed in a stable).
My more recent reading of this passage calls to mind a new angle. Yes, we all need reminding that love of God and love of others are two sides of the same coin. But the word that sticks out to me this time is "see." A defense is offered for failing to serve: "Lord, when did we see you hungry? When did we see you thirsty? When did we see you ill or imprisoned?" I'm not proud of this, but when I honestly reflect on my life I often go days on end without seeing someone who is actually hungry, or thirsty, or truly in physical dire need. (I could probably go weeks at a time if I consciously avoided interstate underpasses). So, would my defense hold up in Jesus' eyes, "Lord, I never saw you hungry ... so I'm off the hook, right?" I doubt it. Today, this gospel calls me (and hopefully you) to strive for a deep solidarity with the poor. This Lent, may we all strive to incorporate at least one concrete way to better share our lives (and not just our resources) with those on the margins of society. We will then see the down and out because they will be physically around us. And then we can love them. And then we can love our King.