At first reading there appears to be an evident contradiction (or paradox) between THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 56: 1. 6 - 7] and the GOSPEL [MATTHEW 15: 21...
SUNDAY 13 MARCH
Scripture: John 8: 1 – 11
Religious bigots! They were all too ready to stone a woman to death and then go home to their wives and children. How could they live with themselves? Its hard to get one’s mind around it. But then that’s what religious legalism is all about. It has no heart in it.
This is what Jesus encountered with the scribes, Pharisees and many of the Religious Leaders. Their legalism and hardness of heart meant that they were incapable of compassion, mercy and forgiveness. How unlike they were to they God whom they worshipped.
Such religious bigotry still exists in the world today – and sadly within our own Church! There are some who willingly allow people to suffer because of their strict adherence to the latter of the law. This is the challenge Pope Francis faces as he tries to steer the Church back towards the love, mercy and compassion which Jesus came to bring. Jesus always put people before the law as is so clearly evidenced in today’s scripture. Is it not possible for us to do the same?
We have the tendency to seek security behind laws, rules and regulations, forgetting that these are meant to guide us not control us. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It is only a heart that has been softened by the living presence of Jesus that will be able to reach out with love, mercy and compassion. This is the Church’s call to us during this Jubilee Year of Mercy: Merciful like the Father. In this, Jesus is always our model and example. The more we grow in our relationship with him, the more we become like him.
The truth is that the only one who could really throw a stone at the woman chose not to. Rather he showed mercy and compassion. In doing this, and by challenging those religious bigots, he saved her life and gave her a fresh start, a second chance. Didn’t she deserve that? Don’t we deserve that? To them she was just a sinner. To Jesus she was a person, a child of God whom God loved – even in her sin. What good news this was for her! What good news this is for us!
Take full advantage of God’s love, mercy and compassion by celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Easter. There are many parishes which have Penitential Services and an opportunity for Confession. Plan your confession today. Draw yourself into a deeper relationship with Jesus by receiving Holy Communion as often as possible this week.
Father, help me to be merciful as you are merciful. Thank you for the many second chances you have given me. May I always be aware of my need to healing and forgiveness and never give in to judgement and condemnation of others. Amen.
MONDAY 14 MARCH
Scripture Daniel 13: 1- 62 John 8 : 1-11
Today’s Scripture from Daniel appears only in the Catholic Bible, and tells a poignant story of an innocent woman who is wrongly accused by two Jewish judges, who seek to cover up their own sinfulness. They were down-and-out liars, but what has changed?
In today’s society, lies seem to be the “in thing.” Lying appears to be a part of many sales presentations, where companies try to convince buyers to purchase their product. We can be sceptical about the claims made by so many manufacturers and our concern is justified in some instances.
But why all the lies? Isn’t there a better way to influence customers?
Yes it does make them look better to a first time buyer, but if you were caught, would you go back and buy again? I don’t think so. So why does it happen time and time again?
The presumption is today is, if you don’t get caught it’s OK. So go on lying, because there are many more suckers out there.
Lies, however, can do so much harm and cause so much suffering and very often, it’s the poor innocent people who are too naïve, who are conned and suffer the most. The world even has a name for this type of lie, a lie that is deemed to be acceptable because it not so grave and it achieves the goal required. We call them white lies. But lies cover up the truth, and often help the liar to gain an unfair advantage over someone. This is what makes lying so insidious.
There are occasions, however, when we are obliged to keep certain information to ourselves, information that no one else should be privy to, especially if it can be used against us, or create a situation that is harmful to us or someone else. But do we have to lie to cover up the truth. Is there no other way to handling this situation? Why don’t we just simply say, “I am not at liberty to speak about it.” That should be enough.
So, whenever we are tempted to lie, shouldn’t we at least stop and contemplate the possible consequences? Lying is a sin, and continual lying could turn us into an habitual liar and that will take away any chance of eternal life with God.
If lies are against Christ’s teaching, then we should be avoiding them at all costs, regardless of whether they are grave or not. But we don’t become liars overnight. It usually starts with those small lies, white lies, and grows from there, and soon there is little truth left in our lives. If we find ourselves a little shy of the truth, stop and pray, and God will give you the answer you need to say the right thing at the right time.
Today’s Gospel shows us another aspect of dishonesty and how Jesus was able to achieve a happy conclusion to what could have been a very nasty situation. He is asked to comment on the fate of a woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery, and all those posing the question wanted nothing more than to catch Him out, but He refused to lie. Instead He turned the tables on his accusers, by confronting them, probably with their own lies and sins. When He writes in the dust he shames the people who are tempting Him. Quietly they all disappear and none of them get the answer they were seeking. They are all caught out by their own sinful lies. So avoid being caught red handed by not lying in the first place.
First pray and then remind yourself of the last time you lied to someone. Then promise God that you will confess your lies to that person – and/or in Confession. This will humble you and help you to stop the habit of lying.
Heavenly Father I ask you to forgive me for the many times I fail to be fully truthful. Help me to overcome my lies, so that I may once more be honest in all my dealings with others and so come one step closer to a life of eternal bliss with you. Amen.
TUESDAY 15 MARCH
Scripture Numbers: 21: 4-9, John 8: 21-30
O Lord, listen to my prayer and let my cry for help reach you
We have all been on long road trips and often, the end never seems to be in sight. Children persistently ask their parents; “When are we going to get there? We have been in the car for so long!”
Spare a thought for Moses and the people whom he was leading “On the Way” to the Promised Land. These “people of God”, lost patience with God and Moses, travelling not in a fancy car with aircon, but on foot – through a desert.
One can perhaps sympathise with them, but for the fact that they were being taken away from slavery to their own land, to be free to live and worship with the God who had chosen them to be His People.
We all become impatient when we are not getting what we want, or expect. This causes us to disrespect the efforts that others are going through to get for us – what is best – and often, the consequences are not as good as we wish. Look at how the Israelites became impatient with God!
Fiery serpents where sent among them, bringing death to many, for their disobedience to God. Thankfully we don’t have to endure the hardship experienced by Moses’ people because just as Moses lifted the bronze serpent as a sign of repentance and God’s forgiveness, to those who acknowledged His Might, we have Jesus who was lifted on a cross so that we will be saved if we follow His ways and listen to Him.
Jesus is always with us – as long as we believe in Him. He was sent by the Father who has shown His Mercy throughout all time. If we look up and offer our prayers our cries for help are always heard – God never hides from us.
It is our FAITH that helps us in our daily living. Practice being patient with those things that are overwhelming and spend time in prayer offering yourself to God to do the works that He has called you to!
Father, help me to be patient in YOUR ways and your time not mine, that I may listen to you in my times of need in order to receive the ways of wisdom. Amen
WEDNESDAY 16 MARCH
Scripture: John 8 : 31 – 42
“You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
Jesus tells His disciples that if they continue to follow Him they will know the truth and the truth will set them free. In John 18:38 Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” Pilate had no idea that when Jesus referred to the truth that it wasn’t a “what” but a “who”. It was Jesus himself who gave the answer to the question when He said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” John 14:6. He alone can set us free from the snare of sin. To illustrate how Jesus frees us from being slaves to sin, imagine the following scenario: There is a young child and his older brother. The older brother is the younger child’s hero and they share a very special love for each other. The younger brother often gets up to mischief, as is common with little people, and as soon as he realises that he is going to be in BIG trouble, he goes to his older brother and asks him to get him out of trouble with their father.
Because the older brother cares so deeply for his little brother, he goes to the father and tells him what the little fellow has done and assures the father that what every damage has been caused, he will rectify it and accept whatever punishment the father wants to mete out. The father calls for the younger son and reprimands him for getting up to mischief and explains to him what the results of his actions have been. “For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12), but before he can punish him, the older brother reminds the father that he has already rectified the situation and has taken on the younger brother’s punishment.
This is what Jesus does for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we confess our sins to Him, He pleads on our behalf with the Father and reminds him that he has already paid the penalty for our wrongdoing. Timothy 2:5 states, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” St. Paul reminds us that ”It is Christ that died, that is risen again, who is seated at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:1)
We are no longer slaves to sin, as sin has no hold over us once we confess our faults and failings and ask for mercy and forgiveness. Jesus “the Truth” really does set us free.
Diarise the dates of the Penitential Services and make a decision to avail yourself of the opportunity to receive God’s grace and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Father, You sent Jesus who is the “Truth” into the world to set us free from the snare of sin. Thank you for giving us the great gift of forgiveness and the promise of a new start. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen
THURSDAY 17 MARCH
Scripture: John 8: 51 – 59
Jesus continues to challenge the Jewish hierarchy in a way that pushes them over the edge. They cannot grasp what He is telling them because it is in total conflict with the very foundation of their belief in God. Never had they been told that the Messiah would be God made man. Never in their wildest dreams could they have grasped this reality.
Jesus informs them that they do not actually know God because only through Him can the mind and heart of God be known. They have the wrong idea about God (they thought they had Him well defined and understood) and Jesus has come to change that perception because He is the eternal God in visible flesh.
He is in perfect unity with God the Father because He Himself is actually God. They pose a question to Him (the same question asked of John the Baptist) about His identity. In His answer He makes it clear that He is eternal, He is timeless and He can offer everlasting life. He uses the words “I Am” – words reserved for God only and, when uttered by anyone else, it was considered the ultimate blasphemy.
They are so blind, so full of themselves and so certain in their beliefs that they have no eyes of faith. His Godhead is hidden from them. He has to try and break them down to accept a new reality – a reality of absolute truth. He disappears from them and when the timing is right, He will once again confront them in His answers to Pilate – at that appointed time. He will not be able to escape their utter anger. When He dies on the cross, the veil of the temple will be torn in two revealing the inner sanctum and God will leave the temple again.
We are called upon today to place our belief in God, what he stands for, what He is supposed to do and what image we hold of Him in the light of this scripture passage. We may have aspects of our belief about which we are stubbornly certain, but which may have to undergo a radical and most uncomfortable change. We profess our belief in the Nicene Creed but today we must declare what is in our hearts not what is in our minds and expressed through our lips.
Assess whether your image of God has moved on from your early childhood days, from the explanations designed for the young and developing minds and from your own definitions based on your own experiences.
Dear God, through the power of your Holy Spirit, open the eyes of our minds to see you as the eternal, merciful and loving Father that you are. Banish from our minds all false and stubbornly held views about You. Amen.
FRIDAY 18 MARCH
Scripture John 10: 31 – 42
This scripture passage continues on from where we left off last Friday: Jesus in confrontation with the Jews in the Temple who are demanding to know whether or not He is the Christ? His reply is seen to be “blasphemous” and they “fetch stones to stone him.”
Jesus uses the words of Scripture to defend Himself, and ends up saying to them, “…even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do;”
Seems simple, doesn’t it? Even if they can’t handle what He is saying, they should be able to believe that He comes from God because of the amazing things He has done – given sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to the lame, cleansed lepers, and cured the sick – all things that were prophesied would be done by the Messiah when He came. But they don’t want to see – they don’t want to believe, because somehow if they acknowledge Him as the Promised One, the spotlight is then going to fall on them and their failure to look after the “sheep,” their failure to “feed the flock.”
The core of their refusal to believe is in their statement, “you are only a man and you claim to be God”. It would seem they were unable to take on board the possibility of God taking on human flesh and coming to dwell amongst humanity. Yet the Hebrew Scriptures were full of stories where God did exactly that, and which should all have pointed them to that possibility with the coming of the Messiah. But, “there are none so blind as those who will not see”.
What about us – you and I? Where do we stand in this story? Are we able to say, with total conviction, “Yes Lord, I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come”? Or are we too, like the Jews in this passage, trying to avoid the truth at all costs? If so, why?
Spend some quiet time in reflection on your belief as a follower of Jesus. How deep does that belief go? Do you find yourself “led astray” by the preaching of the world?
Everything about Jesus – who He is, His divinity, His humanity, and the wonderful message of salvation that He came to bring, can be verified by reading Scripture. If you have doubts ask the Lord to direct you to His Word, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to you.
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me to stand strong in my conviction that You are the Son of God. Show me how to help others to come to that belief, and be with me each day. Amen.
SATURDAY 19 MARCH
Feast of St Joseph
Scripture: Matthew 1:16.18-21.24
“Joseph… did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.”
Joseph loved Mary and like all young engaged couples they no doubt had their dreams and their plans for their married life together. But then things went awry for Joseph when he discovered that Mary was pregnant. He knew that he couldn’t be the father, so what had happened? He must have been confused and deeply disappointed. Were all his hopes and plans going to unravel into nothing?
A messenger from God put his mind at rest. God had a great plan for him. Not only should he marry Mary, but he would also be the father of the Saviour. What was Joseph’s response? As soon as he understood what God wanted of him, he accepted God’s plan and made it his own: “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” This change of heart shows his great faith and trust in God.
At each stage of life we have our own hopes, dreams and plans. Then something unforeseen may happen that may profoundly affect the course of our life. It could be a relationship that turns sour, a failure in some endeavour, financial difficulties, a serious illness, or a death in the family. Our world may be turned upside down.
Like Joseph, we wonder what is going on. How can this be happening? It may be very difficult and unsettling. It may shake our faith. It could plunge us into depression. Like Joseph, be alert to the possibility of God’s speaking to us in the most unexpected way. It may happen in prayer. Or God may send a messenger – a concerned family member or friend, a colleague, or even a stranger who says something that can help us to see our situation in a new light and put us on a new path of hope and life. We need to discern carefully whether it is from God. When we are sure that God is speaking to our hearts, let us be like Joseph – willing to set aside our own plans and follow the way that God his pointing out for us.
Keep an eye and an ear open for someone whose life has been rocked by an unexpected event and may require a listening ear. Give that person a call, or pay him or her a visit. You may be the ‘angel’ and ‘saviour’ whom that person needs right now.
And look out for the ‘angel’ that God may be sending you.
Loving Father, as Joseph took the child Jesus into his care and loved and accepted him as his own, help me to care for and love my family and others whom you have entrusted to my care. Amen. St. Joseph, pray for us.
These Daily Reflections for Lent 2016 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Lawrence Surgeson, Deacon Mark Wardell, Veronica Donnelly, George Cominos, Irene Helsdon and Fr. Justin Stirton. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a fruitful and blessed Lenten Journey.