Some evenings ago I was awaiting the start of one of my very few favourite television programmes. An advertisement urging me to purchase a rather swanky car was being screened....
SUNDAY 12 MARCH
Its worth re-reading the scripture again today even though you heard it at Mass.
Scripture: Matthew 17: 1 – 9
Every now and then we have to stop and put things into perspective. Even our lives get mixed and muddled up by so many things. Today offer us an opportunity to get a clear (or clearer) perspective of our Lenten Journey and of our Life Journey.
As his ministry intensified, Jesus realised that if he was to bring it to fulfillment, he had to go to Jerusalem – the heart of the Jewish faith. He knew that his preaching and teachings would be challenged and rejected by the religious leaders. He needs strength to face what lies ahead, a strength that can only come from the Father. Taking with him Peter, James and John he goes up the mountain to pray for the strength and courage he needs to face and endure what lies ahead, and to get some perspective on whare he has come from and where he is going to.
The Father affirms his Son, showing him that he is indeed the fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). He shows him what lies ahead, the glory that awaits him after he is rejected and put to death.
At the beginning of this second week of Lent we look at our own past to see where we have come from. Our Faith Journey has let us to this moment. We need to acknowledge the progress (despite many failings) we have made, and to know that we are on (the right) track!
We also look ahead to the future, to what lies ahead. There are still 5 weeks of Lent ahead of us. Like Jesus, we need spiritual strength and courage to sustain our Lenten resolutions which will bring us to a renewal of faith and life at Easter. This is the immediate journey ahead – which will be filled with many challenges, temptations, perhaps a few (or many) failures and some tough challenges. The Father strengthens us (his beloved sons and daughters) today as he strengthened his Beloved Son in his Transfiguration. Easter is the glory that awaits us through patient endurance at the end of the Lenten Journey.
Our Lenten Journey captures, in these short 5 weeks, our journey through life. Today we need to look also at where life is leading us and our ultimate, personal Easter: Eternal Life. This is the glory that awaits us when “he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his own glorious body.” (Philippians 3: 21)
At their Baptism on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil the Catechumens (Elect) will be asked: ‘What do you ask of God’s Church?’ They will respond ‘Faith’. Next they will be asked ‘What does faith offer you?’ They will say ‘Eternal Life!’
Ask God to strengthen you today as you begin this second week of Lent and the Journey Ahead with renewed enthusiasm and commitment
As you (come down from the mountain and) look ahead today, plan your Holy Week (the 6th week of Lent). Join your NSG for the Paschal Meal, go to Confession at the Penitential Service, try to attend Holy Mass every day, attend the Triduum (Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday Veneration of the Cross and Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil Mass).
Father, strengthen me as you strengthened your Son Jesus, so that I may continue on the Journey Ahead with renewed faith and enthusiasm in order that I may come to a new life in you at Easter and at the end of my life’s journey. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
MONDAY 13 MARCH
Scripture: Daniel 9: 4-10 Luke 6: 36-38
Jesus tells us that we must always be just in our relationships with others, especially if we are expecting His mercy for the many times we have hurt our neighbours’ feelings or, worse still, when we have damaged their good name by our comments about their faithlessness.
How can we be sure that they are in fact not doing their best, a best that may not be arrouding to our stands but their best nevertheless?
Remember how Jesus reacted when he was unjustly condemned to death because He dared to criticise the Jewish hierarchy for their pomp and self- righteous behaviour? He said “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” We too must forgive the faults and failings of others and be willing to face God for our own faults and failings. It does not matter that Jesus was confronting the religious leaders of the Jewish nation or individuals who were supposed to lead their followers to a holy way of life. What he said was meant for everyone – ourselves included. We also have leadership roles in life which is to lead others to God by our example of brotherly love and devotion to our faith.
Because we will have many neighbours whose faith is weak or non-existent, and because it is not our task to criticise or condemn them for this, we must rather pray for them and show them mercy despite their lack of knowledge and their lack of commitment to God, just as Jesus did to the Chief priests and the Sanhedrin. He did not condemn them, He forgave them. This is what we must do even though it sounds unfair or unjust.
The gospel warns us, that if we fail to show mercy to those who are weak or ill-informed about their faith, God will call us to answer for our lack of mercy. This is a tough call because we have to put our pride in our pockets and refrain from responding negatively, especially to those who laugh at our devotion to God and His Church. It is difficult but it is something we must do – with His help!
Make an effort to count to ten before responding to a troublesome person. This should give you time for second thoughts, a time to prevent a hasty and harmful response. It may sound like a silly suggestion, but it’s a practical way to give you more time to reconsider your response with a prayer. Take a deep breath!
The mere fact that you are doing something, other than making a hasty response, should give you time to bite your tongue and instead of being derogatory you say something good rather than something hurtful, but remember to pray that you will always respond in this manner.
Lord God, listen to my plea, help me to respond positively to those who mock me, help me to respond in a way that you would use, a way that will encourage them to live according to your rules rather than the rules of this world and in this way may they come to accept your teachings as the best way to live their lives. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
TUESDAY 14 MARCH
Scripture Isaiah 1:10, 16-20 “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;”
Each day when we awaken, most of us get into a routine we have been practicing for years, simply out of habit. We do not even think about what we do next – we just get up and do it! Some might say that it is boring but most of us need to have a routine after just waking up, one that gets us going. It’s not a bad idea or practice.
There are those times, however, when we need to break the mould and step out of our shoes and instead. At this time of Lent think perhaps of starting a new journey – leave your shoes off! Feel the sand, the stones and perhaps even the soft grass that we have not had the time to experience because our thoughts are constantly set on our daily habits.
Now is the time to be rid of our usual “old ways”. We have probably chosen one bad habit to get rid of for the Lenten time. Sometimes though we resist because we have been doing it for years! We think that we don’t need to change at this stage in our lives. But we do need to change.
When we “change” into new or clean clothes, we must first wash ourselves and make ourselves clean. This makes us feel fresh and we are able to enjoy the feel of clean cloth on our skin. That is how it is when we bring ourselves into Lent! We clean ourselves, change our routine and look to the JOURNEY AHEAD with fresh thoughts and ideas that will bring change, not only to ourselves but to those around us – family, friends, colleagues, those at robots and, yes – our Church. This is what God wants – a change of heart!
In last Sunday’s reflections (Week One) there were 13 suggestions for your Lenten Journey. Read them again. If necessary, start again today with fresh mind and a different attitude. God loves a clean heart!
Lord God, thank for today. Help me clean myself of all that I do against your divine way. You speak to me each day and always; help me to listen to you, help me on my journey to You. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH
Scripture: Matthew 20:17-28 “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”
Most parents want the very best for their children and in today scripture, the mother of the apostles James and John is no different. She requested that her sons be given the positions of honour and power, one at the left and the other at the right side of Jesus in His Kingdom. Her perception of the Kingdom of God was so different to that which Jesus had been teaching the people. She hadn’t grasped the fact that His Kingdom would bear no resemblance to any earthly kingdom whatsoever.
Jesus reminds us that in the Kingdom of God there is no room for honour, glory and power-seeking, rather, those who want to enter His Kingdom must want to be servants – a rather lowly position to “aspire” to in the thinking and functioning of our world today.
Many people continue to ignore Jesus’ teachings about service and humility. Prestige and power seem to count for so much in our time and people have been known to commit the most diabolical atrocities to obtain power and all the so called “glory” and everything else that goes with it.
We have all held positions of power at some stage. As children we were Class Monitors or Sport Captains. Later on in life we may have been promoted to Supervisor, Foreman, Manager or Person-in-Charge. While holding positions give us a certain amount of prestige, they also carry with them the great responsibility of service to others.
Jesus reminds us that we are called to be servants to one another. Because the gifts God has bestowed on each of us are different from person to person, the many ways we are able to serve one another and the Church differ from person to person. Nevertheless, we are all called to service in whatever capacity we feel God is drawing us.
It’s quite easy to offer the odd helping hand now and again when the need arises but it is quite something else when we are called to move out of our comfort zone; and yet when we adopt the right attitude to service, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Take some time out to contemplate the many gifts God has given you and commit to using these gifts this week to serve the Church and/or someone in need.
Father, thank you for the many gifts and abilities you have freely given to me. Help me to discern how I can best use these gifts in service to others and to the Church. Give me the courage to step out in faith and serve others in whatever way I can. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
THURSDAY 16 MARCH
Scripture: Luke 16: 19-31
We are all currently travelling on well sign-posted dirt road (our bumpy time on earth) which is taking us towards the national highway of eternity – a highway that never ends. This road has stop signs (like Lent and Advent), speed signs (slow down for prayer), speed humps ahead (sickness, death, stress), chevron signs (devil ahead) and many more to enable us safely to reach our destination. As we journey on the road of trials tribulations and constant testing of our faith, we may be tempted to deviate and get onto a gravel road which appears more comfortable but which lacks signage and lets us drive however we want to.
The very rich man in the gospel today was on his own detour of feasting, comfort and pursuit of material things. He may have seen the poor man with his eyes but not with the eyes of a compassionate heart. Whilst alive, he had the free will to influence the lives of many, including his five brothers. We learn today that after death we will not have this burdensome privilege of free will. We learn to that if we did not listen and manifest in our lives the teachings of the Church, we will not be able to use the excuse that we needed more startling signs and events.
We all have to part ways with physical living because our destination is Eternity – a destination built into us as we were created in the image of the Eternal God.
But we have to pass the good driving test on the right road. As the Pope says “When God comes, He always calls us out of our house”. How do we respond to that call? “We are visited so that we can visit others.” How do we react to His visit? “We receive love in order to give love” Do we really love our fellow man by showing mercy, compassion, forgiveness, generosity and genuine care? Or do we ignore the poor, needy, those who offend us, those who are ill, and those whose only earthly longing is to be engaged by us? Am I the man or woman in purple?
Look for a Lazarus on your own doorstep. Charity begins at home. If you do not find him look for him in the Parish, our community, your work and yes even on social media whose ability to connect us all has put Lazarus in our faces. Lazarus is all around us!
Lord Jesus, do not allow the temptation of the devil to blind me to the needs of others as we all journey towards eternity. Mercifully spare me from having to enter eternity where I shall have the “time” to reflect on the Lazarus I ignored. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
FRIDAY 17 MARCH
Scripture: Matthew 21: 33 – 43, 45 – 46 “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit”
This parable is Jesus’ own story. God is the owner of the vineyard, the earth, and the People of God are the tenants. God calls them to ‘produce appropriate fruit’, and at various intervals in the great story of salvation, sends ‘messengers’ to collect that fruit. But no fruit is forthcoming, and the messengers (the prophets) are treated harshly or even killed. God, however, does not give up, and finally decides to send His son to the people, believing that the people will respect His son. However, that does not prove to be true either, and the Son is killed. Jesus asks His listeners, which included Pharisees and scribes, what they think the “owner of the vineyard would then do”. The answer comes, “he will lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.”
We are “those other tenants” – it is to us that the ‘vineyard’ has been entrusted, and it is our task to produce fruit for the Master to collect. We are going to have to account for our stewardship.
Furthermore, each of us has our own little vineyard – and each of us is commissioned as Jesus tells us in John’s gospel, “to produce fruit that is lasting”. Hopefully we are not guilty of treating the “messengers” who remind us of this task in the same way as those in the parable were treated, but again we need to account for our stewardship in that area as well.
Lent offers us the opportunity to evaluate our stewardship – of our own individual vineyards, as well as the greater one for which we are all responsible. Are we producing fruit that is appropriate and lasting? Will the Lord be pleased with our efforts? If not, what needs to change?
Reflect on your life up to now – if you had to produce evidence of a fruitful life, what could you offer?
Is there more that can be done? If so, make a resolution to get involved in an activity that will allow opportunity for growth and greater productivity.
Lord Jesus, You came to live among us, as one of us, to show us the way to salvation – a gift we do not deserve. Help me to see the opportunities to serve You by serving others, and so make my life fruitful and pleasing in Your sight. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
SATURDAY 18 MARCH
Scripture: Luke 15: 1 – 3, 11 – 32
This is such a familiar parable that you may well have been tempted to read the whole parable. Resist the temptation! Read it!
Mercy and forgiveness is at the very heart of the Gospel. In reading through the four gospels one would have to conclude that the mission of Jesus was all about Healing, Reconciliation, Forgiveness and Peace. That’s what Jesus came to bring. If this is what the mission of Jesus was all about then sure this is also the mission of the Church (remember We Are the Church!). Is it?
Jesus reveals a Father who goes out of his way to welcome back a wayward son or daughter. In many ways we are all prodigal sons and daughters. How often have we said “Bless me Father for I have sinned” or “I confess to Almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters that I have sinner.” Like the prodigal son we take ownership of our sins; “I have sinned!”
Many (we) find it difficult to actually acknowledge this. It is difficult to get our minds, our hearts and our tongues around these words. It takes humility and a genuine desire to change.
Jesus gives us the assurance that the Father is always waiting to welcome us back. When we make the effort to go to him he comes out to us! Notice how there is no judgement, no criticism, no condemnation and no chastisement. There is only healing, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace!
Do I have the courage and humility to acknowledge that I have sinned and that if I want to renew my faith (or be renewed in faith) at Easter and take my rightful place in the Father’s House then I need to pick myself up and start the journey home. The Journey Ahead let him into the arms of his Father who restored him to full sonship in the house he chose to leave. Our Lenten Journey Ahead leads us to a renewal of faith, the joy of sharing in the Lord’s Resurrection and the experience of our Personal Easter at the end of life’s journey.
Get up! Go to the Father and say “I have sinned”. Experience the joy of being healed, forgiven, reconciled and the peace these gifts bring!
Make your personal decision today to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a Saturday afternoon or at the Penitential Service on Tuesday 11 April at 7.00pm.
Father, that you for your mercy and compassion through which I am frequently healed and forgiven. Give me the strength, courage and humility I need to come back to you with all my heart. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
These Daily Reflections for Lent 2017 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Lawrence Surgeson, Deacon Mark Wardell, Veronica Donnelly, George Cominos and Irene Helsdon. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a fruitful and blessed Lenten Journey.