Official Biblical, Liturgical, "Good News" readings.

March 27, 2017


Reading 1 – IS 65:17-21

Thus says the LORD:
Lo, I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
The things of the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.
No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there,
or the sound of crying;
No longer shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime;
He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years,
and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.
They shall live in the houses they build,
and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 30:2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12A and 13B

R. (2A) I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the nether world;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
“Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.”
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Verse Before the Gospel – AM 5:14

Seek good and not evil so that you may live,
and the LORD will be with you.

Gospel – JN 4:43-54

At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee.
For Jesus himself testified
that a prophet has no honor in his native place.
When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him,
since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast;
for they themselves had gone to the feast.

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee,
where he had made the water wine.
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea,
he 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.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
While the man was on his way back,
his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live.
He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him,
“The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him,
“Your son will live,”
and he and his whole household came to believe.
Now this was the second sign Jesus did
when he came to Galilee from Judea.

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March 26, 2017


Reading 1 – 1 SM 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A

The LORD said to Samuel:
“Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice,
Samuel looked at Eliab and thought,
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,
but Samuel said to Jesse,
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
Jesse replied,
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him;
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold
and making a splendid appearance.
The LORD said,
“There—anoint him, for this is the one!”
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,
anointed David in the presence of his brothers;
and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 23: 1-3A, 3A-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2 – EPH 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
the things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”

Verse Before the Gospel – JN 8:12

I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.

Gospel – JN 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, ”
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”
He replied,
“The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’
So I went there and washed and was able to see.”
And they said to him, “Where is he?”
He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again,
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe
that he had been blind and gained his sight
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
“Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?”
His parents answered and said,
“We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself.”
His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews,
for the Jews had already agreed
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
“He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind
and said to him, “Give God the praise!
We know that this man is a sinner.”
He replied,
“If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
So they said to him,
“What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?”
He answered them,
“I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
They ridiculed him and said,
“You are that man’s disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses,
but we do not know where this one is from.”
The man answered and said to them,
“This is what is so amazing,
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners,
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he.”
He said,
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
Then Jesus said,
“I came into this world for judgment,
so that those who do not see might see,
and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this
and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
Jesus said to them,
“If you were blind, you would have no sin;
but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

or – JN 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, ”
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again,
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”

They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him, and
the one speaking with you is he.”
He said,
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

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March 25, 2017


THE ANNUNCIATION

Reading 1 – IS 7:10-14; 8:10

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us!”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 40:7-8S, 8B-9, 10, 11

R. (8A and 9A) Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Your justice I kept not hid within my heart;
your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of;
I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth
in the vast assembly.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 2 – HEB 10:4-10

Brothers and sisters:
It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats
take away sins.
For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.'”

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Verse Before the Gospel – JN 1:14B

The Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us;
and we saw his glory.

Gospel – LK 1:26-38

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.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
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.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Reflection

Today the Church remembers and celebrates that remarkable and history-changing moment when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to Announce that she was to be the Mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. From the very second of her “yes!”, Jesus was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit.
From the Catechism:

(487) What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.

(490) To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”. (Luke 1:28) In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary: God had a plan all along, from the beginning….

The only starting point in every and any discussion about the Blessed Virgin Mary is Jesus Christ, her Son. This must always be the focus of our conversation and understanding of who she is and why she is pivotal and critical to our understanding of Jesus and what He accomplished for all of humanity. It starts with the Garden of Eden when Satan, the leader of all the fallen angels, tempts Eve to first doubt her trust in the Lord and then disobey Him. Both she and Adam were permitted to eat from all the trees in Paradise except ONE. The devil, however, was not to have its’ intended and avaricious victory as the Lord made it clear that this was not the end of the battle for the soul of humanity: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers,” speaking of the ultimate combat between the forces of evil and the offspring of the descendant of Eve, who is Mary, the Mother of Jesus Our Redeemer. Thus, the “Tree of Good and Evil” is transformed into the “Tree of Life,” the wood of the Cross upon which Jesus died to “free us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray.” (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)  So if Jesus is the New Adam (Romans 5:14), then clearly Mary is New Eve. Eve = Mother of all the Living  & Mary = Mother of the Church (The Body of Christ to whom she gave birth.)

The issue of Freedom: A Tale of Two Angels…..

We know who the serpent in the Garden of Eden was. We all read about it in the Book of Revelation: “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in Heaven.  The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.” (Chapter 12:7-9)

Let’s take a good look at these two angels: The serpent in the Garden of Eden and the Angel Gabriel. One approached Eve, the other Mary. Two Very Different Outcomes! Satan tricked Eve by re-phrasing what God had forbidden Adam and her to approach; Gabriel’s announcement (Annunciation) was met with serious questions from Mary: “But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29)
Eve’s response to the fallen angel become demon: Distrust and Disobedience.
Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel:  Trust and Obedience. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
The aftermath of Eve’s choice: Death entered the world; the aftermath of Mary’s choice: Life entered the world. 

So consider this in your prayers today:

real man

 

•God has a magnificent plan for me and it started from the beginning of time.
•He sent His only Son to die for me, both Divine like God and human like me (thanks to the obedience of the Virgin Mary).
•I am created to live on this earth to accomplish as much as I can while I am alive.
•After I die, I will be made pure and stainless to live in Heaven forever as was Mary to carry Jesus in her womb.

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March 24, 2017


Healing Our Defects

Reading 1 – HOS 14:2-10

Thus says the LORD:
Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God;
you have collapsed through your guilt.
Take with you words,
and return to the LORD;
Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity,
and receive what is good, that we may render
as offerings the bullocks from our stalls.
Assyria will not save us,
nor shall we have horses to mount;
We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’
to the work of our hands;
for in you the orphan finds compassion.”

I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
I will love them freely;
for my wrath is turned away from them.
I will be like the dew for Israel:
he shall blossom like the lily;
He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth his shoots.
His splendor shall be like the olive tree
and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.
Again they shall dwell in his shade
and raise grain;
They shall blossom like the vine,
and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols?
I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.
“I am like a verdant cypress tree”–
Because of me you bear fruit!

Let him who is wise understand these things;
let him who is prudent know them.
Straight are the paths of the LORD,
in them the just walk,
but sinners stumble in them.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 81:6C-8A, 8BC-9, 10-11AB, 14 and 17

R. (see 11 and 9A) I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
An unfamiliar speech I hear:
“I relieved his shoulder of the burden;
his hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I rescued you.”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“Unseen, I answered you in thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear, my people, and I will admonish you;
O Israel, will you not hear me?”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
“If only my people would hear me,
and Israel walk in my ways,
I would feed them with the best of wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would fill them.”
R. I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.

Verse Before the Gospel – MT 4:17

Repent, says the Lord;
the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Gospel – MK 12:28-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
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,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself

is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Reflection

Many among our readers who have had the blessing of raising children into adults for this aching society so in need of character and faith-filled people, have commented that they remember the first time their child attempted to lie to them. For some, it was a bit traumatic, for others humorous (really, Son?) and still for others, down right disappointing. For all of us who can at least understand this dynamic whether or not we have been parents, this is a spiritual insight into the heart of God who has not only created us out of love and for love but also continues to sustain our very being with His very thought.

“I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.” (First Reading)

Still, the experience of parenting, bringing as it does, great similarity to the “parenting” or shepherding that God provides for us, all issues forth a challenge for each one of us, especially in the Season of growth, purpose and peace:

“There shall be no strange god among you nor shall you worship any alien god. I, the LORD, am your God who led you forth from the land of Egypt.” (Responsorial Psalm)

Like with most sinful behavior between God and humanity, parent and child, friend to friend, there is always distance created and that separation actually causes more problems. And therein lies the remedy:

“And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Gospel)

We were born into this life with defects, and we will certainly leave with a handful of them as well. The issue here is this: how well will I manage them? How will I come closer to Jesus by accepting my own limitations and those of people around me? How will I use what God has given me in this life?

These are Lenten questions, no doubt. The answers we find will determine whether we experience the deep grace and love of the Lord or not.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could here Jesus say to us right now:

“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

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March 23, 2017


“I will never forget you”: Gather with me

Reading 1 – JER 7:23-28

Thus says the LORD:
This is what I commanded my people:
Listen to my voice;
then I will be your God and you shall be my people.
Walk in all the ways that I command you,
so that you may prosper.

But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.
From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day,
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.
When you speak all these words to them,
they will not listen to you either;
when you call to them, they will not answer you.
Say to them:
This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.
Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Verse Before the Gospel – JL 2:12-13

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel – LK 11:14-23

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,
and when the demon had gone out,
the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself,
how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Reflection

About five or six years ago, I accompanied our Youth Group to a homeless shelter in December to bring food, sing Christmas carols and spend some time playing games and just be present to those who might not otherwise have any kind of Christmas. I remember thinking how good it is for these teenagers who are so immersed in such a self-centered and ego-driven world to seewhat others are experiencing and what they themselves take for granted too often.

It was good for all of us. I remember some of the kids were a little frightened of the folks coming in for a hot meal, which, by the way, those young people had all helped prepare earlier that one Saturday morning which was cold and wet and most inviting to remain in a warm bed…but there they were!

As our time went on, I could see everyone actually becoming more and more comfortable, starting to address one another by first names while more and more laughter began to fill the shelter area. The songs and games went extremely well and who’d have thought that we had all spent more than three hours together!

As the afternoon progressed, the temperatures dropped substantially and the rain slowly moistened the ground beneath our feet as I began to catch a few saying good-bye to their new-found friends, knowing that they may never ever see them again. A few of them were crying and I knew that was a good sign and a hopeful sign for not only a powerfully different Christmas but also, perhaps, a changed perspective on life.

elderly womanAs we began to pick up empty boxes and wrapping paper and make our way back to the vans, an elderly woman sitting alone at one of the tables motioned for me to come closer. “Yes, ma’am,” I said, “what can I do for you?” 

“Do you have one of those cell phones, honey?,” she politely asked.

“Yes, ma’am, I do.”

And with that, she pulled out a small plastic bag which I assumed at that moment contained most—if not all—of her belongings and fumbled for a short while to locate then give to me a small piece of paper with a phone number on it.

“Sir, could you please do me a favor? You see my son and I were travelling and we had some problems with the car so he left me here at this place where I could get a some food every day and a warm place to go. He told me to call him and he would come for me but I don’t have a phone. Would you please call him for me and tell him that I’m ready to go now? It’s already been two months…”

For a second, I thought time had stopped. It was as if for a couple of seconds I couldn’t move or say a single word. I knew exactly what had happened to her and I was sure that number wouldn’t work:

“Of course, ma’am, I certainly will call for you and everything’s going to be fine,” although deep in my heart I wasn’t even sure if I believed that.

“Merry Christmas, honey,” she said with a sweet, tender smile, her eyes gazing off into the distance.

“Merry Christmas, to you, too. God bless you!,” I said, fighting back a few tears.

As soon as I returned to my vehicle, I tried the number and as I suspected, it went nowhere. Not a working number. Not even a working area code. (!)  A couple of days before Christmas, I returned to the shelter and spoke with the workers and they told she was fine, just looking out the window all day, waiting for her “ride.” I waved but I don’t think she recognized or remembered me.

That particular year, we had a nasty freeze right after Christmas which left quite a few homes without heat. I’m sure I probably got busy with all my life’s demands and forgot about the shelter for a while but after it cleared up a bit, I did think about that woman and called down to the shelter to see if they needed blankets or fire wood or anything. They told me that the cold spell affected the older residents dramatically and that poor woman died in her sleep on New Year’s Eve.

Her own son never took her call, but the Son of God sure did.

Every call to Heaven is always answered. He will never forget us…He will never forget you.

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March 22, 2017


The Immense Value of Example

Reading 1 – DT 4:1, 5-9

Moses spoke to the people and said:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees
as the LORD, my God, has commanded me,
that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy.
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?

“However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20

R. (12A) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
He spreads snow like wool;
frost he strews like ashes.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

Verse Before the Gospel – See JN 6:63C, 68C

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.

Gospel – MT 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Reflection

There is a powerful story about a child’s reaction to the way his parents treated his grandfather, an older man who was living with the family and who had undesirable and understandable trouble and challenges getting through life. Things like spilling food on the floor, knocking over the glass of milk or iced tea, and making grunting sounds while eating all seemed to anger the little boy’s parents which caused them to speak harshly to the old man on a daily basis.

One day, the old man mad a huge mess at the table which caused his own son (the boy’s father) to ban him from eating at the table with the rest of the family. instead, he brought out a smaller table, very hard and uncomfortable, and gave the elderly relative a wooden bowl and spoon so as not to easily spill food upon the floor or make any further “messes.” All this the young boy watched in sadness as his grandfather was demoted to a corner of the dining room with an occasional tear in his eye.
boy sawing woodLater in the week, the father of that boy heard something in the garage. He went out to see what was happening and was surprised to find his son working on some project, very focused. He called out, “Hey Son, what are you working on there?” His son replied, “Hi Dad! I’m working on the table and bowls that you and mom will eat on when you both get very old.”

His father was completely astounded and stupefied. That very night, he discarded the crude little table and bowl and brought his father back to eat with the rest of the family. From then on, they didn’t seem to mind all the spills and noises and that little boy was happy to have grandfather back eating with them for as long he lived.

“However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your  children and to your children’s children.” (First Reading) 

When we hear the word, “teach,” we must expand our understanding of that term to mean much more than using words and and directives when imparting knowledge and values. The power of example is as much a part of the teaching process than the very content of the lesson. This is critical to understand how Our Faith is passed down from one generation to another and how we will maintain our fidelity to the God who loves us so much.

Jesus Himself in the Gospel continues to expound on this very necessary requirement in our journey not only through Lent but also through life itself: “But whoever obeys and teaches theseJESUS W CHILDRENcommandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”  

A man once wrote to his teenage son: “God is the reason why even in pain, I smile, in confusion I understand, in betrayal I trust and in fear I continue to fight.” These are not just words if they are put into practice and lived as best as possible. You and must remember even long after this particular Lenten Season is over, that our children, students and friends will not follow our advice—they will indeed follow and remember our example.

For today, how about we give the following:

To an enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, our heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity,
To every child, a good example,
To ourselves, respect. 

(Oren Arnold)

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March 21, 2017


Forgiveness is not an Option

Reading 1 – DN 3:25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud:

“For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever,
or make void your covenant.
Do not take away your mercy from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your beloved,
Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,
To whom you promised to multiply their offspring
like the stars of heaven,
or the sand on the shore of the sea.
For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,
brought low everywhere in the world this day
because of our sins.
We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,
no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 25:4-5AB, 6 and 7BC, 8-9

R. (6A) Remember your mercies, O Lord.
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.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your kindness are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Remember your mercies, 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.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Verse Before the Gospel – JL 2:12-13

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart;
for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel – MT 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Reflection

During this great Season of Lent, it must be remembered that each of us builds a house in which we will live and standards that will be used for us in eternity. Let us each consider how we are building our house:

There once was a brilliant architect who envisioned a world beyond shape and dimensions, efficient and inspiring places of business and homes that all could afford and live and reach their destiny and ultimate calling. With the soul of a poet and the mind of a genius, he continued to set forth design after design, project after project that contiarchitect/contractornued to amaze and stir the imagination of young and old alike.

But what was more profound
about this man was his humility. Although he clearly towered over the competition in his field, he never gloated and boasted about his gift or his remarkable accomplishments.
And because of this noble demeanor, he had the respect of so many……..

Except one.

Years earlier, the architect’s father was working as a contractor and had sacrificed years of long and hard hours to put his son through college and architectural graduate studies. Right after his son’s graduation, he fell ill stricken with lung cancer and was forced to quit working. He had a partner in his construction business, a mediocre man (at best) with the work ethic of lotus-eater and the temperament of a Shakespearean character inflicted with “the green sickness” of envy.

Because he could no longer work, he felt sorry for his hapless partner and kindly asked his artist-builder son to hire him. Having watched his dad laboring all these years for his education, the young architect could hardly deny the request and brought him on board. Perhaps, he thought, the man would change and see himself as an integral part of the firm’s success and reputation which would indeed spread throughout the country.

As years went by, the reputation and esteem for the architect grew and grew as did the anger and envy of his cunning contractor who was increasingly angry over the renowned success and adulation bursting right in front of him. He never believed that he rightly received the credit he deserved, the applause and compliments of builders and artists, the regard and notability of all, and was slowly yet powerfully driven by a dark force within him which sadly advanced with each celebrated project.

Dream HouseThen one day, the architect announced: “I am going to design the most beautiful home in the world! People from all over will come and see its beauty, its comfort, its welcome for families to grow and cherish life….it will be my masterpiece!”

The building began with much excitement and anticipation. But, his contractor and foreman, had other devious plans. “Let us use cheap materials…..let us build this house with inferior product and intention…..it will look magnificent, but after a few years, it will crumble into the ground. We will pocket the money and leave this dreamer and all his adoring fans behind in the ruins!”

People clappingSo the day of unveiling finally arrived. People came from all over….young and old, rich and poor, all to see the gift of idea and inspiration from the mind and heart of this celebrated architect, all the time being, his contractor looking on with a strange look of disgust mixed with an almost sinister delight. By this time, what was once petty and unfortunate, became evil and criminal: his heart had completely darkened under the weight of such hellish hatred.

No one was prepared for what happened next…

Before the public would be ushered into this marvel of design,
the architect spoke to all from his heart:
“Many years ago, my father sacrificed for me so I could
achieve my dreams for my family, my friends and
for the world. Beside him those many years,
was my contractor who began to work for me
when my father could no longer lift even a hammer.
I wish my dad could be here today to witness this moment.
In his memory and to his honor,
I want to publicly give this brand new home
to my contractor!”

and with that, he handed him
the keys to the house
he had just built.

“For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure
will be measured out to you.” (Matt 7:2)

What’s in your house? How Long does it take YOU to forgive?

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March 20, 2017


THE FEAST OF ST. JOSEPH

Reading 1 – 2 SM 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16

The LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David,
‘When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.'”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29

R. (37) The son of David will live for ever.
The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness,
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. The son of David will live for ever.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.

Reading 2 – ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22

Brothers and sisters:
It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.
For this reason, it depends on faith,
so that it may be a gift,
and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not to those who only adhere to the law
but to those who follow the faith of Abraham,
who is the father of all of us, as it is written,
I have made you father of many nations.
He is our father in the sight of God,
in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead
and calls into being what does not exist.
He believed, hoping against hope,
that he would become the father of many nations,
according to what was said, Thus shall your descendants be.
That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.

Verse Before the Gospel – PS 84:5

Blessed are those who dwell in your house, O Lord;
they never cease to praise you.

Gospel – MT 1:16, 18-21, 24A

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“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.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

or – LK 2:41-51A

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them.

Reflection

The Lord Jesus who brought about the most revolutionary impact on Human History had the same physical beginnings and nurturing surroundings that every human being throughout our history has the potential of experiencing: it is THE FAMILY, which has been called “the nucleus of human civilization.” However, this fundamental center of our world has seen corrosion. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta captured the urgency of this message when she wrote:

“I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other; there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.”

Most of us first learned and experienced Jesus through our families as well as our morals, manners, socialization and even temperaments that we take into our adult lives. When the family is broken and fragmented, society follows suit. Do we really need any proof of this phenomenon?

Manhood and authentic examples that help direct children and families toward health and happiness are desperately needed. What does a healthy man look like? I once read a statement in a bulletin from a young man who at the time was a 16-year old high school sophomore. His parents divorced when he was 8 years old. His father left and has never returned. His stepdad, a tyrannical and poor excuse for a man treated him poorly and had the nasty habit of  telling him to “shut up,” that he’s worthless, stupid and will never amount to anything. But if anyone asked him about his dream and his eyes would light up. This is what he wrote:

“I’d like to move in next door to my dad without him knowing who I was. And I’d like to just become his friend. Once I had become his friend then maybe it would be OK for me to move on with my life. Even though I’ve had so many problems in my life, I do believe I know what a real man is:

A real man is kind.
A real man is caring.
A real man walks away from silly macho fights.
A real man helps his wife.
A real man  helps his kids when they are sick.
A real man doesn’t run away from his problems.
A real man sticks to his word and keeps his promises.
A real man is honest.
A real man is not in trouble with the law.”

This brief essay is written by a boy who has never really been around a man, never really seen one. But there is something so inherent, so ingrained, so intrinsic so fundamental, that even a young man who has never seen it modeled can put it into words. It’s one lonely boy’s vision of a man who stays. A man who is both an authority and under authority.

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. This reminds us all that Jesus was raised in a great family. Thank God. In that setting, He was able to come to a complete understanding of who He was and why He came for us. From the Gospel of Luke cited above, we find one of the key passages in the life of Jesus. “Your father and I,” said Mary, “have been looking for you with great anxiety.”“Did you not know,” said Jesus, “that I must be in my Father’s house?”

See how very gently but very definitely Jesus takes the name “father” from Joseph and gives it to God. At some time Jesus must have discovered his own unique relationship to God. He cannot have known it when he was a child in the manger and a baby at his mother’s breast or he would be a monstrosity. As the years went on he must have had thoughts; and then at this first Passover, with manhood dawning, there came in a sudden blaze of realization the consciousness that he was in a unique sense the Son of God.

Here we have the story of the day when it is certain that Jesus discovered who he was. And mark this–the discovery did not make him proud. It did not make him look down on his humble parents, the gentle Mary and the hard-working Joseph. He went home and He was obedient to them. The fact that He was God’s Son made him the perfect son of his human parents.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

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March 19, 2017


The Path to Holiness

Reading 1 – EX 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?”
So Moses cried out to the LORD,
“What shall I do with this people?
a little more and they will stone me!”
The LORD answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people,
along with some of the elders of Israel,
holding in your hand, as you go,
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink.”
This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah,
because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the LORD, saying,
“Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 – ROM 5:1-2, 5-8

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Verse Before the Gospel – Cf. JN 4:42, 15

Lord, you are truly the Savior of the wordl;
give me living water, that I may never thirst again.

Gospel – JN 4:5-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned,
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another,
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment
and gathering crops for eternal life,
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;
others have done the work,
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
or
JN 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.

“I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Reflection

What do the following have in common:

The Burning Bush
The Fig Tree and
The Cross of Jesus.

They all have to do with God’s Holiness which He is inviting us to enter. In our First Reading, Moses was confronted with this fire which clearly signaled the awesome holiness and presence of God right in front of him. He was told he could come no closer. Then God gave his personal name which declares that He is always in the present moment, above all time and space, and that he was deeply concerned for the human race: “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering.”

Our Second Reading reminds us what happened to those traversing 40 years in the dessert because of their stubbornness in front of the awesome gifts of Holiness presented: “Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer.”

The parable in the Gospel really sums it all for us who are travelling on our journey of 40 days rather than years by issuing the same invitation and challenge to enter this Holiness of God. Today, the only way for us to come into the presence of a Holy God is to become holy ourselves. This is why God sent Jesus to be our Savior. He is our holiness as it is written in 1 Corinthians 1:30. When Jesus died on the cross He took away all of our unholiness, exchanging His righteousness for our unrighteousness. When we believe in Him, God accepts us as holy—as holy as Jesus Himself. Thus, our lives, like the fig tree, must bear fruit — or it will be cut down and discarded. This is not meant to scare us but to encourage us to approach our Living and True God with faith and tremendous trust in His Word.

The grace that God has shown through the cross enables us to approach the Holy One—not as Moses did, hiding his face in fear, but by faith, trusting and believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

By carrying our cross united with that of Jesus Himself, our lives will indeed bear fruit that will last, invite others to follow the Gospel, and take us straight into the awesome presence where we know The Lord is waiting and loving all of us.

Consider this Prayer Before a Crucifix as a way of beginning to enter this mystery of Holiness:

CrucifixionLook down upon me, good and gentle Jesus
while before Your face I humbly kneel and,
with burning soul,
pray and beseech You
to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments
of faith, hope, and charity;
true contrition for my sins,
and a firm purpose of amendment.

While I contemplate,
with great love and tender pity,
Your five most precious wounds,
pondering over them within me
and calling to mind the words which David,
Your prophet, said to You, my Jesus:

“They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones.”

Amen.

 

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March 18, 2017


The Prodigal Father

Reading 1 – MI 7:14-15, 18-20

Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
That dwells apart in a woodland,
in the midst of Carmel.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead,
as in the days of old;
As in the days when you came from the land of Egypt,
show us wonderful signs.

Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our guilt?
You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;
You will show faithfulness to Jacob,
and grace to Abraham,
As you have sworn to our fathers
from days of old.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

R. (8A) The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Verse Before the Gospel – LK 15:18

I will get up and go to my father and shall say to him,
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

Gospel – 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

One on-line resource defines the word “prodigal” like this: an adjective that describes spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant and or having or giving something on a lavish scale. The reason for our attention to this hardly-used word in a world that is marked with excessive behavior on most fronts, is that the Gospel today has come to be know in many circles as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” But is that really accurate?

Our First Reading sets the stage for this discovery: “Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance…Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance.” 

In this magnificent passage, the Prophet Micah is describing the “extravagant and lavish” actions on the part of our God who loves us so much that He reaches in the depths of His mystery and divinity to forgive and wash away our sins.

The Psalm for today as well echoes this theme when he writes:  “The Lord is kind and merciful.” And just how is He kind and merciful?: “He pardons all your iniquities, he heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, he crowns you with kindness and compassion.”  Exactly! 

I will get up and go to my father and shall say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

The wayward son in St. Luke’s Gospel today forms the words that you and I utter to God every day: “Father, forgive me, please.” And just take a look at how lavish our God is with us when it comes to this plea for forgiveness and mercy:

“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.”: The Prodigal Father, although hurt by his son’s betrayal, was actually waiting for him to come home!”

“He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”: His First reaction: Go to him, hug him, kiss him, love him.

“Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;”: Now is the time to celebrate; your past is forgiveness, something new is about to happen.

“He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.”: Now the older son is furious, and once again the Prodigal Father, ready to love and forgive and restore unity actually GOES OUT TO HIM.

“But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf…” Refusing the invitation to join him in forgiveness, the older son lashes out at his own father suggesting that his own brother is really not related to him with more insults. But the father keeps his forgiveness litany going: “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.”

There is one last interesting aspect about the Gospel today:

Did you reafinger pointing youlize that we never found out what the elder son did with his father’s open invitation to love and forgive?

What do you think he did?

Can you think of a reason why is was left out? It’s really
quite simple and right in front of us:

We will write the ending of this passage

with what we decide to do with our lives today.

 

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