Monday, February 19
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 Geoffrey Philabaum
When I was a junior in high school, my AP US History teacher asked me what happens when I read. I was flummoxed. I thought everyone read the same way I did: as if they were watching a movie. The characters on the page would be moving about on sets replete with soundtracks and the occasional studio audience. The drama was high, and the experience was cinematic to say the least.
This reading from Matthew sets an all too familiar, yet captivating, scene in my mind. It resembles a gameshow: a large group of people assuming they are all there for the same reason come into a room with bright lights all around, angels in the background, and a bit of Handel's Messiah playing softly. The people have already separated themselves into friend groups (aka nations), and they all think pretty highly of themselves in relation to the other people in the room. They were "cool," especially to each other, and they are ready to win, even if they don't know yet what's behind the second curtain.
We then hear from the host, who just happens to be played by Jesus. "If you ______, take one step forward." The nations look at each other, then get a little worried as individuals begin to separate. The questions continue, and the disparity between the cliques grows. The tie that binds this new progressive group isn't about exclusivity, judgement, or even self-identity. It is bound by a selfless, humble, Christian way of walking through the world. The reward is great, but it means doing some unpopular things. Are you brave enough to take that walk? To befriend that person? To really love one another as Jesus would in the real world in real time with real actions?
Tuesday, February 20
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 Mary Tellier
"The Simplicity of Prayer"
This gospel is such a comfort to a person (read: English teacher) like me. Spending most of my days reading and writing, I find myself preoccupied with being able to say the right thing in the right way. I agonize over what I write, trying to perfect the content of the composition and the lilt of the language. I find that I do the same when I pray, often spending more time trying to get the wording right than focusing on the meaning behind my prayer.
Jesus offers us comfort in this passage, as He reminds us, "Do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words." In those moments when I do not know if I am saying the right thing in the right way, Jesus reminds us that God knows what we need. All I have to do is turn my heart and mind to Him and be with Him in prayer.
He even gives us the Our Father so that we do not have agonize over the words we say. In this perfect prayer, Jesus shows us how we should turn our prayer to God first in awe and thanksgiving; then, as we turn our prayer to ourselves and our needs, we should focus also on forgiveness—both of our own sins and those that others have done to us. The end of the prayer reminds us to keep our focus on eternal life—all Christians' ultimate goal.
When I am stymied by how to perfectly explain what I am trying to say, I am grateful to have a God who knows my every need and desire. Thankfully, He does not want my nonsense of a prayer and gives me the cheat codes to do it well; even praying an Our Father slowly and purposefully can be more meaningful than some of my long-winded, overdone prayers. This Lent, as I spend my days teaching my students how to be more successful writers, my prayer for myself is that I learn how to pray with a child's simplicity and a sincere heart.
Wednesday, February 21
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 Chad Howat
I clearly remember my Confirmation during my eighth grade year. As a cradle Catholic, it is the first Sacrament of which I have vivid memories. Not that I expected tongues of fire, but I did expect a mountain top experience, to feel and see something more. I expected a miracle, a clear sign that God is present and among us.
In today's gospel, Jesus recalls the remarkable conversion of the people of Nineveh. As we read in the Book of Jonah, Jonah wanted nothing to do with Nineveh. In his haste to escape God's call for his life, Jonah hopped a ship, only to be thrown into the water by the sailors to appease the storm. Jonah spent three days in the belly of a great fish, his despair Jonah prayed and committed to God's will for his life. He set out for Nineveh preaching repentance, and the people of Nineveh repented in dramatic fashion.
In the gospel, Jesus says, "Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation." So what sign is Jonah? He is a sign of conversion, reform and repentance; these are the attitudes of Lent. What sign will Jesus give to his people to elicit this conversion? He will die and be raised from the dead by the power of God.
What I misunderstood during my Confirmation is that miracles do not lead to true conversion. Deep conversion is encountering a person, the person of Christ. Jesus will die and be raised to life again. This will be the greatest sign of all that God is among us.
Thursday, February 22
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Reflection by Sr. Mary Ellen Wheelahan O.Carm.
During the Lenten season we are called to re-focus our attention to the Kingdom of heaven. We are reminded to look to God to learn and experience love, mercy, and compassion. Jesus is telling Peter that it is his belief, his faith that gives him strength. He tells Peter that what "he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven" because he knows Peter is living his faith - that Peter is in such a deep relationship with God that he is allowing God to work in all of his words and actions. The important question for you and me to ask for ourselves is from Jesus, "Who do you say that I am?"
I ask myself - do I live my life in a way that shares God's love in my words and actions? Do I reach out to people who are suffering? When was the last time I spoke up when I saw or heard a person being hurt or threatened? How many times during the day do I smile at people in my family, my school, or on the street?
I can help bring about the Kingdom of heaven!
Saturday, February 24
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 Kim Duhé
What if you were forever labelled for the worst thing you had ever done? This question has stuck with me since I heard Sister Helen Prejean speak about the death penalty.
None of us are ever all good or all bad. Who wants to walk around wearing a scarlet letter welcoming the world to judge you for your sins? All of us are sometimes good friends, good children, good parents, good partners, good employees, etc. Unfortunately, there also are times when we are not our "best selves." We may actually be "bad" sometimes. I'm not proud of it, but it is true. Does that mean we only deserve love when we are our "good selves?"
Our Heavenly Father sees all of us all the time - the good and the bad - and still chooses to love us. Can we say the same for the way we return that love to others? If we only love the good, the acceptable, the "like us" then we are not really doing anything significant or special. So it seems Jesus is challenging us to truly love everyone - to love unconditionally - which sounds great on paper. Doesn't it?
In 1983 Pope John Paul visited the man who attempted to kill him. Not only did JPII forgive the man, he asked for him to be pardoned and released from prison. Who among us can forgive those who hurt or offend us with such perfect love? Jesus did when he asked God to forgive the people who were torturing and crucifying him.
We are all human and we all have good and bad sides. When you look at others be kinder, gentler, and less judgmental. Forgive mistakes because we all make them. Try to be better tomorrow than you were today. Say you are sorry more often than you say "I told you so." And above all, love "perfectly" - or at least try to because we are all just a work in progress.