Saturday, March 18 - LK 15:1-3, 11-32
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." So to them Jesus addressed this parable. "A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.' So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, 'How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."' So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.' But his father ordered his servants, 'Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, 'Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, 'Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.' He said to 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.'"
Reflection by Sr. Kathy Farrelly O.Carm.
THREE IN ONE
As I was praying with this scripture passage, I reflected on how I have played the role of all three men in this passage.
I reflected on two things in regard to the youngest son. When I was growing up, many times I thought how much greener life was on the other side, meaning I would focus on what was bad in my life as opposed to all the good that was in my life. Secondly, the courage that it takes to ask for forgiveness, even though it is truly a grace filled growing experience.
In regard to the father, his joy of having his son return home spoke volumes of his unconditional love for his son. This act of the father is a true reflection of how God is with each one of us when we seek forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation.
Last, but not least, is the reaction of the oldest son. At times in the past, I have had my feelings hurt when my hard work wasn't affirmed. It made me feel as though I was being taken for granted. However, I need to remember that I need to always put my best foot forward because it is about integrity and self-respect.
"How happy I am to see myself imperfect and be in the need of God's mercy." St. Therese of Lisieux
Friday, March 17 - MT 21:33-43,45-46
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: "Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.' They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?" They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times." Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit." When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
Reflection by Jen Smith Richard
Bend, Don't Break
First as a teacher and now a mother, I have done my fair share of disciplining. For the past few weeks, my two-year-old has found a great deal of humor whenever my husband or I correct her: our stern admonitions more often than not are met with giggles. It has tested the limits of our patience and holiness more than once. No matter how many times we correct her or how consistent we are with consequences, she repeats the same behavior and then laughs at our reactions.
This morning, in the busy rush of getting everyone out of the door on time, I watched from across the room as that same two-year-old picked up her full water bottle and conked her nine-month-old brother right on the head with it. I flew across the room, grabbed the bottle, and sharply reprimanded her. There were no giggles today; instead, she sat right on the floor and burst into tears. My husband asked her what was wrong, and she said, "I just have FEELINGS!"
I was sympathetic. I had feelings, too. I don't like disciplining my children, or my students for that matter. It's uncomfortable to call attention to someone else's bad behavior. And who am I to set a standard for what that behavior should be? I make mistakes. I don't like to be corrected. I have nurtured many a grudge against people who were just trying to make me better. And yet, I am constantly inspired by the words of my colleague Mrs. Clare Guilbault, who always says, "Discipline is the gradual bending of our will to God's." What a beautiful description. It truly takes the sting out of discipline because it gives it a holy purpose.
When I reflect on this Gospel, I put myself in the shoes of the chief priests and elders, the group Jesus rebukes here. They are the tenants, and the farm is Israel. Servant after servant, prophet after prophet, has come, and still they aren't listening. They aren't doing what they're supposed to do. They know it, Christ knows it, and now everyone listening to the parable knows it. I can only imagine the humiliation and anger they felt when Christ spoke--because I feel humiliated when I read his words and think of all the ways I have been a bad tenant. When I pray with the Gospel, I like to think I would have dropped my fishing nets and immediately followed Christ, but what if I'm more the chief priest type? When I examine how I live my life, I have to ask: "Am I a good or bad tenant?"
As uncomfortable as these thoughts are, I also feel grateful to the chief priests and elders for "rejecting the stone" because that action opens the Kingdom of Heaven to the rest of us. In this Gospel, Christ doesn't speak to me as a bad tenant; he throws his arms open to me and offers me the most beautiful gift. I believe he sees what I can be, not what I am. Unworthy as I am, he trusts me to produce fruit in the vineyard--but I can't do it without discipline, that uncomfortable feeling.
Why does Christ rebuke the chief priests? Why does he rebuke us? Because God the Father knows we can be better. I know my daughter can treat her baby brother gently. I know my students can come to school on time in the correct uniform with the materials they need to be successful that day. If I know they can do it, then I owe it to them to discipline them if they don't do it. It is a sacred duty to help someone discover God's will for her life, whether my role in that is as a mother, a teacher, or just a friend. It's my job to help them bend their wills without breaking them.
There are some Gospels that inspire us, and some that make us uncomfortable. This one makes me uncomfortable. It gives me FEELINGS, just the same way my daughter felt bad when I corrected her and she realized she had hurt her brother. This parable makes me realize all the ways I reject God's will for my life, and that realization is humiliating--but that discomfort is a beautiful gift because it comes with the knowledge that God thinks I can do better.
This Lent, give yourself the gift of being uncomfortable, of knowing that your Father who loves you believes you can be better. Embrace any Gospel that makes you uncomfortable and celebrate that God has spoken to you. He's brought you one step closer to bending your will to His.
Thursday, March 16 - LK 16:19-31
Jesus said to the Pharisees: "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.' Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.' He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.' But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.' He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"
Reflection by Sr. Laura Melancon O.Carm.
What is God Asking of Me?
As I reflect on this passage of the rich man and Lazarus, I ask myself, what is Jesus trying to tell me?
I'm not rich and living in the lap of luxury, but I do have a roof over my head and more than enough food to eat and clothes to wear, and really everything else I need and perhaps a lot more than I need.
I believe the point is that no matter what socio-economic bracket we may be in, are we thinking about and helping those more in need? Jesus expects us to care for the less fortunate and to always be there for them.
Just recently, one of the homebound in the parish, an elderly lady called me to ask if I knew how she could get help to pay her utility bill? I knew this was the first time she ever had to ask for help, but her check just didn't stretch far enough that month to pay all her bills. I had gotten a good bit of Christmas money, so I asked her how much she needed? She said $137.20. I sent her the money and she was so grateful and thanked me amidst tears. I had a January birthday and received just over the amount that I had given her. God is never outdone in generosity.
We need to be aware of the less fortunate because that's what Jesus did and what he expects of us.
There are many ways of helping the poor. It may be filling a bag with the extra clothes we no longer wear and taking it to an outreach center, supporting food drives, serving at diners for the poor and homeless, working with Habitat for Humanity to provide shelter for those who need homes etc.
If we expect to get to Heaven, we must be social minded and have an option for the poor. During this Lenten season, it is a good time to examine our conscience and ask ourselves, do we want the fate of the rich man ?
Let us pray: Lord God, help me keep my eyes and ears open to ways that I can always be aware of the needs of the poor and respond to their needs to the best of my ability. Teach me to be unselfish and to be generous with all you've given me. May this Lenten season be a time of real sacrifice, so that I may follow in your footsteps in your love for the poor. Amen.
Wednesday, March 15 - MT 20:17-28
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, "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." Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, "What do you wish?" She answered him, "Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom." Jesus said in reply, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" They said to him, "We can." He replied, "My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, 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."
Reflection by Elizabeth Fuselier
What a wonderfully counter cultural passage! Here Jesus confronts us with his radical, expectation-defying truth. He asks the disciples and us through scripture, "You want to partake in the glory of God? Do you understand what that glory even is?"
It is service. It is love in the form of self-denial. It isn't shiny and exciting like worldly glory but it is so much more satisfying and lasting. Jesus leads us in this. It is only through his example that we can learn how to be a true servant. He starts by telling his closest friends that he will suffer pain, humiliation and death. The kingdom of God is not like these earthly kingdoms.
"You want to sit next to me?" he asks. "Be willing to be last. Be willing to be the least." There is no room for pride next the magnanimous gift of humility that Christ displayed on the cross.
We may ask ourselves, "Why choose this path then? If Christ tells me that following him is going to be painful, humiliating and ultimately end in death, why bother? I want to be happy, not miserable."
The answer is because we are made to serve one another. It is only in making a gift of ourselves to those around us that we become the person God is calling us to be. He formed us and as much as our selfish desires and a love for comfort drag our feet, God knows that our joy will lie in self-sacrificial love. The glory of this world will not lead to our true happiness. We will only be satisfied when we answer His call to love as he loved.
May we choose our own happiness this lent by serving others. May we take St. Therese as our example, giving ourselves as a gift in the smallest of ways:
-Being patient when frustrated
-Bearing wrongs patiently
-Training our thoughts away from judgment
-Guarding our emotions instead of them ruling us.
Tuesday, March 14 - MT 23:1-12
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.' As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
Reflection by Sister Rose Marie Penouilh, O.Carm.
In this Gospel, Jesus had some harsh things to tell the people about the Scribes and Pharisees. This was a group of well educated men who knew the law well and who could teach it clearly to the people. That is why Jesus could tell the people to "do and observe whatever they tell you." He knew it would be accurate and clearly imparted. But in his teaching Jesus admonished the people to observe the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees but not to follow their example. They preached well but did not practice what they preached.
The Scriptures today teach us about the integral wholeness of life, how all the pieces and parts fit comfortably together beyond one's clothes and titles and food, beyond families, friends and acquaintances. It reaches out to help those who have been wronged, to hear the orphan's plea, to assist the widow in her need.
Have you ever passed a beggar on the street moving past him as if he did not exist? Have you ever driven comfortably through a slum area without recognizing the poverty all around you? Or did you suddenly become aware of your responsibility to these least of God's children? There are so many ways that you can reach out to the "orphans and widows" of our day. Orphans and widows in the Bible symbolize all the helpless and needy people of the world. Maybe alone you can do very little but there are still ways you can help.
We are called to use our gifts in service to others not to aggrandize ourselves. Jesus is our model. Jesus lived like the common man in poverty and service to those in need. How can you, a teen-ager at Mount Carmel, be like the humble Jesus in living for and serving others? Gifted as he was, with all the resources that could have been his, he was simple, humble, loving and forgiving.
One place you can begin to look for ideas, for projects is on the Service Hours bulletin board in the main hall at school. What about offering to help in some project in your parish? There may be something you can do to help a group working in the New Orleans East area which was badly damaged by the recent tornado, where people's lives were thrown into disarray in a matter of seconds. Life for many there will never be the same. Catholic Charities may be another good source and probably needs help in significant areas around our city. You may not have deliberately neglected God's "orphans and widows" but God will forgive you for the asking. With God's forgiveness will come the feeling of God's peace and joy and security.
Remember Jesus Himself calls us to be the servants of others. This blessed season of Lent is a wonderful time for us to look for opportunities to serve the "orphans and widows" of our day and to do so knowing we are doing it in the name of Jesus who calls us to be the servants of others.
Monday, March 13 - LK 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."
Reflection by Angela Elliott
Before Godiva was anything but a lady on a horse or I could even pronounce the word "Ghirardelli" there was the great American chocolate bar. My adult taste leans toward dark chocolate but like Keds tennis shoes, there was no other brand of chocolate in my world but Hershey's. Its classic brown and silver wrapper has changed little through the decades and it still is produced with the familiar grid pattern that makes snapping off smaller pieces - well, a snap! My mother would give the bar to my older brother with the instruction to "share this with your sister." "Sure, Mom," he always said. But being a letter of the law kind of kid, he technically shared the two end pieces while taking the lion's share for himself. Poor downtrodden me - the sexist oppression - the plight of the little sister.
I will never forget the day - a day like so many before it. Mom unpacking the groceries, handing the Hershey bar to my brother with her standard instruction. As he portioned out my stingy share, Mom suddenly went off script and said, "OK, Ann, you get to choose the first piece." Oh happy day! O glory of glories. I could hear the choir of angels echo the joyful hallelujahs I was singing in my heart. I wish I could have seen the delight and surprise on my face, but I settle for the memory of the dawning, shocking realization that slowly registered on my brother's.
Deeds are what count - without them words are hollow. What we seek, we must give. Super-size your order for mercy and kindness and forgiveness; who doesn't hope to be gifted with those blessings? But be just as ready to serve up generous portions of mercy and kindness and forgiveness at every opportunity, because the forecast is clear: the measure you measure with will be measured out to you.