Monday, February 26
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 Sue Buras
Where to begin! These passages are so easy to write, but to fulfill them is another story. These are hard lessons, but if we are truly grounded in the faith of Christ's love, this will make his commands easier to follow. After saying that, remember words are words, and words are a good beginning; but the deeds are more important.
How wonderful do you feel when someone is kind to you; when someone forgives you; when someone does not condemn you?? Then why would you do these things to anyone! Remember every act of kindness comes back to you twofold. We get from life what we put into it. The challenge from this reading is to do more; to always be merciful because mercy is love, and it is nice to love and be loved. Always being merciful is like seeing a rainbow and the pot of gold; it just makes you smile and feel rich—because you are--you are rich in spirit and in God's love!
Jesus is inviting us to be as God is-nothing less. This invitation reaches us as we are human beings, calling us into the life with God. These passages stress to us the importance of good relationships with people- all types of people. What would the world be like if we were all merciful and non-condemning? Christ is helping us strive for this.
We get from life what we put into it. During Lent strive for more; live by the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have then do unto you". I know you can do it; more importantly Jesus knows you can do it- take the challenge!
Tuesday, February 27
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 Sue Wilkinson
Matthew 23 has within it a great lesson for teachers and parents. How many of us will tell our students or our children that they should do something and then do the opposite or not do anything at all? We tell them that they must do certain things for their own good, abide by certain rules and regulations because they are young and need our guidance. But then, we may do those exact things we tell them not to do because we are older and more experienced. As a mother, I have told my children to eat healthy foods and not spoil their appetites with sweets, only to eat foods that are not good for me. I have heard parents tell their offspring not to text and drive, or drink and drive, only to do so themselves, because they believe that the experience they have enables them to handle these situations.
Teachers and parents are in a unique situation, in that we constantly have young people looking to us for advice. For every one person who asks a teacher for advice, there are one hundred more looking to that same teacher to see his/her reaction or hear the words that will be said when a situation arises. It is in these instances that we must pay attention to where the real teaching happens. We are given these young lives to shape and to teach them how to live in the world. This is when we must not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. The formation of a young person is so much more important than outward appearances. We do not need to "widen our phylacteries and lengthen our tassels." What others think of us is not nearly as important as what the young people in our care think of us.
As for what we should do in these situations: "we have but one Teacher, we have but one Master." And Jesus outlined what we should do in any given situation. His words should always be foremost and present in our minds. "Love one another as I have loved you," he said and "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." "Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another." These and so many other words of wisdom can be found in Jesus' own "how to" book, and Lent is a good time to review the ways He wants us to live.
Wednesday, February 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 Sr. Camille Anne Campbell O.Carm.
The Jesus the Apostles were with during the Transfiguration when Jesus' "clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them," is not the Jesus in this prediction of His Passion and Death. I imagine the other apostles were hoping to see Jesus as Peter, James and John saw Him, but this was not to be. Jesus, rather than revealing His glory with God the Father, is telling them that the trip to Jerusalem is for him to be taken into custody by the religious leaders to be condemned to death, and hand him over to be scourged and crucified. Did they listen and hear when Jesus said He would rise from the dead or were they in shock at his description of his future? Would I have stayed with Jesus?
The mother of the sons of Zebedee responding to Jesus' "What do you wish," replied as a mother would, that she wants her sons to occupy the places of honor. What ambition, and what else could Jesus say except, "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" This can be a warning to us about ambition and power which the mother was seeking for her sons. It also reveals how we can choose to seek good but for the wrong reason. Are we ready to make the sacrifices we need to make to drink the cup?
To be a disciple of Jesus we must be servants. When we find ourselves really ambitious to achieve some goal in life, Jesus is telling us to stop and see who we are going to serve if we succeed in getting what we want, ourselves or others? How often do we think that becoming first among others means truly giving of ourselves to others who surround us? Are we ready to serve as Jesus did and to give our lives in service to others? Just be kind, and loving because that is why you are here. Remember "Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay; love isn't love until you give it away." Give love and you will drink the cup from Jesus, that is how it works, and you will have true "JOY."
Thursday, March 1
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 Alayna O'Connor
If you're anything like me, you also grew up on cheesy Christmas movies. Santa Claus is Coming to Town, A Year Without a Santa Claus, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Christmas Carol are just a few of the many that make everyone think of decorating the family Christmas tree and baking holiday cookies together. When reading today's Gospel, I can't help but think of some of these Christmas movies that share similar messages. I know. We're in March and talking about two very different liturgical seasons, but stick with me.
In Jesus' parable, we are introduced to Lazarus and a rich man. Let us first look at the rich man. His life on earth appeared to be ideal as he was living in luxury, eating fancy meals, and wearing the fanciest of clothes; however, all that glitters is not gold. Upon death, only after "suffering torment in the flames," he regrets the mistakes he made while living a life of greed and gluttony. If you're still thinking about those Christmas movies, you might be thinking of Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Think of the life Scrooge lived. He had many opportunities to live humbly, have a grateful and generous heart, and spread joy to others. However, selfishness and pride took the front seat. Luckily, Scrooge was granted a "do-over" and upon seeing his future, wished to do anything to reverse his actions and right his wrongdoings.
Unfortunately, we aren't all as lucky to receive that "do-over," and the rich man reminds us that this is our wake up call! Sure, we all endure our fair share of hardships and feel as if we are walking in a desert alone. The truth is that Jesus walks with us even if we can't see him. He guides us back to virtue; we just need to have faith in Him. "Faith is the assurance of all things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." Hebrews 11:1. Listen to what Jesus is saying today in your heart. Visit Him in the Holy Sacraments, and take this moment to start afresh. This is your "do-over."
Friday, March 2
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 Stephen Rappold
In this passage, we witness a pivotal moment in the road leading to Calvary. The passage begins with a parable about a landowner leasing land to a group of tenants, then leaving on a journey. There are two possible interpretations of this passage. This could either refer to the Kingdom of Israel and the Hebrew people, or it could be the Earth and humanity collectively. In either case, it is clear that the landowner is God. The landowner sends servants to obtain his produce, who are then killed by the tenants. The servants are an obvious reference to the prophets of the Old Testament, who criticized the social injustices of their day and were often put to death for expressing these unpopular beliefs. Finally, the landowner chooses to send his only Son, who meets the same fate as the servants. This is Jesus, who in his prophetic role is put to death for calling into question the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Jesus then asks the priests what should befall the tenants, who in turn suggest the land be taken away from the tenants and a dark fate for the tenants.
Jesus then turns the tables. He informs the Pharisees that the tenants in the parables are none other than themselves. This reveals a familiar theme in the Gospels, Jesus' condemnation of hypocrisy and false superiority. The Pharisees meticulously studied the Mosaic Law, enforcing it and other added laws harshly upon others. This gave the Pharisees a feeling of moral superiority. What the Pharisees did not understand was that there is a certain grace that comes from understanding our own imperfect nature. Sin reminds us of how desperately we need God, and how amazing His mercy is. As the Easter Exultet eloquently expresses, "O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, that gained for us so great a Redeemer!" Through their pride in their own 'righteousness', the Pharisees were in a sense saying that they did not need God. This is why Jesus tells them that the Kingdom will be taken away from them. What the Pharisees thought they were safeguarding never belonged to them anyway. This enrages the Pharisees, and hastens Jesus' road to Calvary. This Lent, it might be necessary to consider if there are instances in which we are Pharisees. Do we gossip about the failings of others to hide our discomfort with our own failures? Do we take joy in the failures of others because it makes us feel superior to them? Let us ask God humbly in prayer to let us use the failures in our life as occasions to see His mercy, and the failures of others to BE His mercy.
Saturday, March 3
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 Christie Cognevich
"Once Upon a Time"
Once upon a time, I wanted to be Snow White. My opportunity finally came in my second grade class production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Naturally, I set my little heart on the starring role. The allure of the spotlight itself wasn't actually appealing; I was introverted and shy. Rather, I was motivated by the understanding that the lead role would go to the best student, and as a seven year old perfectionist, I desperately wanted to be not only good but the best. I was helpful, polite, and followed every rule. I knew I was smart enough to remember every line. I deserved Snow White. Didn't I?
You already know where this story is going. This story is not about how I became Snow White. This story is about how I became a dwarf.
Worse yet, the role I landed was so unimportant my character didn't even have a name—we were distinguished only by the color of our costumes. I was one of seven nameless, beardless children in felt lawn gnome hats and matching scarves. Mine was forest green.
The stage wasn't very big, but I had no idea where to stand. I just followed my other fellow dwarves. We marched around aimlessly and repeated our single line, "Heigh ho!" at irregular intervals.
I wanted to feel a little more important, so sometimes I mimed sneezing so it would seem like my character was actually Sneezy instead of one of the nameless crowd.
At the time, I hadn't yet figured out how to measure my worth by what I learned, not by what I earned. In the parable of the lost son, Jesus wants us to understand that worthiness isn't about standing out or being perfect all the time, and he especially says that even sinners can be deserving of recognition. Checking every box or following all the laws just for the sake of being right or good isn't necessarily a requirement for God's love. Like the Pharisees, the older son measures his merit in terms of how little he has failed, not by how much he has grown from his errors or his capacity to love and forgive. In fact, his sense of entitlement closes him off to the full understanding of God's mercy.
Jesus, in his wisdom and grace, lets us know that sometimes it is okay to be lost. The prodigal son's much humbled return reveals that in many ways, he shows more spiritual growth than his older brother.
As a teacher, I encourage my students to be wonderfully imperfect and make mistakes; learning comes from trial and error, and there is so much reward in discovering our path when the way was steep. But as a human being, I often fail to follow my own advice and put so much misplaced value in getting it right the first time or winning.
When we're surrounded by the beauty and success of others (especially on social media), it can be easy to lose sight of what Jesus reveals to the Pharisees by way of this story: His love is not a competition. When I stumble in ways big and small—whether on a Lenten resolution or a personal goal, missing a deadline or neglecting my spiritual self—I am often so hard on myself that the end result is just shame instead of improvement, and this isn't productive.
We might not get our expected rewards like the older brother, or we might get lost along the way like the younger, but either way we can be forgiven if we truly repent and grow.
I never got to be Snow White. But looking back at the pictures of that play, even though I look a little bit aimless, I also look like I was having a good time nonetheless. I didn't need to be Snow White—even the most lost of little dwarves are worthy, valuable, and loved.