By Russell Pollitt SJ Earlier this week Pope Francis met with Marc Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of the world’s biggest social media network, Facebook. The Pope, the Vatican reported, spoke to...
SUNDAY 21 FEBRUARY
Scripture: Luke 9: 28 – 36
From time to time we need to stop and look at where we are in our lives. Some of us have more years behind us than ahead of us. We need to look at where we are coming from and where we are going to. All of us are on life’s journey, but each in our own particular and unique way – and place.
This Second Sunday of Lent is an invitation for us to stop and to look back on our lives, where we have come from and the journey we have travelled to get here. It is also a time to look back on our Lenten Journey from Ash Wednesday. How have we fared on these journeys? Today, the Father wants to affirm us on the journey which has brought us to this point in our lives. We all carry baggage of one sort or another. Some of are at this point in life because of that baggage! Whatever the situation lets be grateful for all we have experienced which has brought us to this moment in our lives. Jesus has the same experience as he engages with Moses and Elijah. The Father affirms him but revealing to him that he is the fulfilment of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). This affirmation is important to him. He is indeed on the right track – as are we. God has let us to this moment in our lives and by his grace this is where we find ourselves.
Now its time to look forward – in faith – with Jesus. His transformation or transfiguration is a vision of the glory that awaits him – after the crucifixion. Today we also stop to look ahead. The journey of life leads us to the hope and promise of the glory of the resurrection at the end of our lives when “he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his own glorious body.” Philippians 3:21
In the more immediate journey, Lent leads us to the joy of the resurrection – to Easter, a foretaste of our personal resurrection. At the top of the mountain Peter said “Master, it is wonderful for us to be here, so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and the other for Elijah.” But Jesus was not about to languish at the top of the mountain in its serenity and solitude. He had to leave that wonderful place and come down the mountain and set his face to Jerusalem where Betrayal, suffering and death awaited him. In the transfiguration the Father had affirmed his Son and showed him the glory which awaited him. This is what the Father does with us today. Look ahead to the joy of Easter. The Lenten journey will be worthwhile; the penances, self-sacrifice and effort will make what awaits at the end even greater. The Father who sustained his Son will sustain us too. Like Jesus, put your complete faith, hope and trust in Him.
Review your Lenten resolutions today and if you have failed in any of them, don’t give up or abandon them. Pick yourself up and start again today.
Father strengthen me as you strengthened Jesus. Be with me today and throughout my Lenten journey. Amen.
MONDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2016
Feast of the Chair of St. Peter
Scripture: Matthew 16: 13 – 19
In today’s Scripture, we hear Peter’s affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. We also hear how Jesus installs him as the foundation and head of “His Church” on earth. Jesus proclaims Peter to be the rock on which He will build His Church. He then gives Peter the keys of the kingdom, which places him in a position of authority over this Church, a church which Jesus assures us, will not fall prey to the wiles of the devil.
Peter’s authority is further enhanced when he receives the added responsibility of binding things (the truths) on earth, which will then be bound in Heaven.
So Peter’s declaration is the truth of who Jesus really is. But it doesn’t end there; Jesus also hands over the reins of the Church to Peter, and Peter hands over these reins to his successor and so on down to the present leader of the Church; Pope Francis.
How then can we question the dogmatic pronunciations of the Church, made through her leaders? Regrettably, we often hear people, even committed Catholics, disagreeing with the teachings of the Church. This is the same as disagreeing with Jesus.
Yes! Sometimes it is very difficult, in the face of commonly accepted practises in the world today, to accept all that the Church teaches, but bear in mind, it is not the Church alone who proclaims the truth, it is the Church with the backing of God through Jesus and His successors, Peter and the Popes that do. This begs the question, “Who is the Church?”
Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, tells us that we are the Mystical body of Christ, the Church. We are the body of believers who make up the Church, so it is our responsibility to carry the truth to others just as it is given to us, without editing.
Peter highlights this responsibility when he says, “Give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you.”
Difficult as it may seem, this is our task in the spiritual life, and the sooner we embrace this task, the sooner we will be on the path to Heaven. Amen.
Our first objective should be to convert those closest to us, family and close friends, but only after we are firmly convinced that we are true to the Faith. To this end, read a chapter of the gospels each day and compare what each of the first three Gospels have to say about the same issue, so that you get a good understanding of the scriptures which you can pass on to others.
Oh God, help me first to accept your teachings as the truth, and then give me the courage and ability to encourage my family and friends to follow these teachings. May I be guided by the Holy Spirit and not by the mind of the world which today thinks only in human terms, and so bring all closer to God and His ways. Amen.
TUESDAY 23 FEBRUARY
Learn to do good, search for justice
Scripture Isaiah 1: 10. 16 – 20; Matthew 23: 1 – 12
Can I be compared to the “unjust” rulers who oppressed the people whom they led?
Often we hear people (that is us) say; “if they can do that; so can I” and we copy the “wrong” actions that we experience instead of, as Isaiah suggests; ‘take the wrong- doing out of my sight”! … “Learn to do good”.
Must we therefore follow his direction and learn to do something good? YES! And when we see and experience the indiscriminate things which are openly done against God’s word, (no different from the ‘early days’) we might ask; Have I learnt anything from the past that that I do not still do today?
We try to do the right thing most of the time – if we can! But, in my normal daily way of living – do I:
Search for justice?
Help the oppressed?
Care for the orphan?
Plead for the widow?
Jesus, who commands all things; calls us to “do as the scribes and Pharisees SAY – not as they DO”.
We receive the Word of God – which is good! Let us not burden ourselves by acting in a way that will cause harm. Our lives will be so much easier and we can look Jesus in the eye and say, “Thank you Jesus for teaching me to be humble, that my reward will be in heaven, when I am with you.”
Take full advantage of the oppritunities now to: fill a hungry tummy, make someone laugh, do the smallest and kindest of things. God’s rewards for you will be unlimited – in heaven!
Dear God, help me to see the small things that matter most to those who are in need. Help me to practice what you teach for, “whoever is humble will be exalted.” Amen.
WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY
Scripture: Matthew 20: 17 – 28
“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant”
Today we read the story of a mother looking out for her sons. Like any parent, she wanted the best for them and so she asked Jesus to ensure that they each had a special position in Heaven, one on His left and the other on His right. Perhaps she felt that as they were devout followers of Jesus, they should be entitled to places of honour, but Jesus is quick to explain that this is not how things work in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus reminds us that as His disciples, we are not called to be the greatest but to be a servant to one another. As Christians we serve one another out of love, following the selfless example which He gave us. In all honesty, it’s not always easy to serve others. We expect people to be grateful for what we do for them but very often we feel that our kindness and generosity goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
We know Jesus felt the same way in the story of the healing of the ten lepers where only one of the lepers returned to thank Him and yet, He did not say “That’s it, I’m done with this ungrateful bunch of people.” How sad He must have felt during His public trial when the very people whom He had healed, were among those calling for Him to be crucified.
During Lent we try to make an effort to be of service to others. It’s a time for us to get out of our comfort zone and a chance to do something for someone else without expecting anything in return.
The Church teaches that there are 7 Corporal and 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy which are actions we can perform that extend God’s compassion and mercy to those in need. The Corporal Works of Mercy are these kind acts by which we help our neighbours with their material and physical needs.
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Clothe the naked
- Shelter the homeless
- Visit the sick
- Visit the imprisoned
- Bury the dead
God my Father, You sent us Jesus to teach us how to be merciful. He gave us the example of unconditional love. He showed us how to show kindness and compassion to one another. Help me to follow His example and to serve others without counting the cost. Amen.
THURSDAY 25 FEBRUARY
Scripture: Luke 16: 19 – 31
Parables give us a glimpse into the kingdom of God and into His thinking. This parable of Lazarus and the rich man will create discomfort for many who read it because its message insists that we become moved by the poverty of others. Its a powerful reminder to us that, whilst the poor are often mentioned in the Bible, they are often absent from our hearts and minds.
Outwardly the rich man probably kept the Law of Moses to the ‘T’. But we need to look into his heart (as Jesus does to us) and observe his spirit of generosity – or lack thereof. Not only did he enjoy dressing in fine clothes and feasting – which we are allowed to do – but he allowed his heart to become attached to them. His sin was that he made joy, delight and pleasure his idols and every day pursued these for himself and served himself only.
After he life on earth the rich man sees Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham (our father in faith, father of Israel and a friend of God) and he experiences the agony after death of having failed during his life to help those less fortunate than him. He failed to show mercy and compassion. He failed to engage the poor and the hungry.
Our Western culture places great emphasis on financial security, on doing everything possible to prevent us from losing out, on being able to sustain ourselves (without the need for God sometimes) and to be able to remain secure in the face of exchange-rate losses, drops in share prices, rises in oil prices etc. These are fine endeavours but not if they become our focus to the EXCLUSION of the poor and to the extent that we allow the drastic inequalities in the world to perpetuate. Jesus wants the balance restored.
This gospel parable gives us a warning that Jesus (He will come again to judge the living and the dead) the eternal judge, will formulate His decision on how we used our wealth (in its widest sense of talent, time and treasure) in attending to those less fortunate than ourselves.
We have Scripture, the Church and her Ordained Ministers who constantly remind us of our obligations to the poor and if they cannot motivate us to generosity, nothing will, and our hearts will remain hard to the plight of many – the many who are so close to the heart of God.
Look into yourself today and assess your own spirit of generosity. Find a real situation of poverty and do what you can to help.
Lord Jesus, teach me that being generous from my heart will bring me closer to you and will allow the Holy Spirit to work in my life. Amen.
FRIDAY 26 FEBRUARY
Scripture: Matthew 21: 33 – 46
“Finally He sent His Son”
Since the beginning of time and creation God has tried to get humanity to understand that He wants to live in harmony with us – that He wants to be a part of our lives – that He wants us to understand how much He loves and cares for us.
When things go wrong, way back in the beginning, God does not give up – He starts again – He sent the cleansing flood, and began again with Noah.
Things went wrong once more – so He starts again with Abraham and the nation that grew out of Abraham’s descendants. Still, people did not get the relationship right, and they land up enslaved and oppressed. Again, God does not leave them to their own devices, but sends Moses as the instrument of liberation – the people are freed and God leads them back to the promised land, and gives them the Law to keep them on track.
Do they succeed? No, so others are sent – one after the other – prophets are called into being to remind the people of what God is looking and hoping for. But, somehow there is always resistance – stubbornness, failure to obey, and consequent calamity of one kind or another.
God sees that this covenant has not succeeded. Does He throw in the towel? NO, He decides to send His Son.
We have to ask, why does He do this?
Because He LOVES US! “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3: 16) God is determined that we shall never be able to say that He gave up on His creation – that He abandoned them to sin and did not care what happened to them. He sends Jesus into the world to “show the face of the Father” – a face filled with love, mercy, compassion, kindness and forgiveness. In empowering Jesus to “free the captives”, God hopes that mankind will finally come to realize that the message of LOVE that He has been trying to get across is TRUE!
“They will respect my Son”. Is this true? Do we see in Jesus the Father – a merciful Father who goes out of His way to seek out the lost and rejoices when they are found? Do we appreciate the never ending stream of love, mercy and forgiveness that is poured out no matter what we do? Are we able to look at Jesus on the cross, and have some small understanding of the LOVE that was involved in being willing to sacrifice His life for you and for me?
This final gift of God’s – in Jesus – should not be rejected. Each of us should search our hearts and consciences and see whether we are able to say, with complete honesty, “I thank You for sending Your Son – I will try to live a life that shows that I respect You and how grateful I am for Your love for me.”
We show that we love God by loving and serving our neighbour. Find one way to show this love in action to someone who has not met Jesus, or is struggling to understand the love that God has for them.
Lord, forgive me for the many times I have gone my own way, and ignored You. Thank You for loving me as You do. Help me to show my love for You by the way I serve others so that they too will come to know You. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
SATURDAY 27 FEBRUARY
Scripture: Micah 7:14-15.18-20, Psalm 103, Luke 15:1-3.11-32
“This brother of yours was dead and is alive; he was lost and is found.”
The Pharisees avoided all contact with ‘unclean’ sinners and treated them with contempt. They believed that God also would have nothing to do with sinners. They were scandalised that Jesus was a friend of sinners and ate with them, so he told them the ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son.’
The self-righteous Pharisees expected the father to punish his young son for tarnishing the family name and for squandering his inheritance on shameless debauchery. But the father had mercy on his young son who had suffered enough because of his foolish behaviour. The father didn’t condemn him or show the slightest sign of disapproval. On the contrary, he celebrated his return.
The parable confirms the words of the psalmist, “The Lord will not always find fault… God does not treat us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our faults.” What do judgment, harsh words or punishment achieve? They only crush an already broken spirit and cause a person to withdraw. That is not what God wants. God is generous with his forgiveness – he wants sinners to come home, for good. Jesus was sent by the Father to call sinners, not to drive them away! He is the face of the Father’s mercy.
Many people who have made unfortunate choices in life have felt alienated from God, their families and the Church. Some have become withdrawn; they have been afraid to return, lest they be judged or be made to feel unwelcome. We must have the attitude of God, who according to the prophet Micah “passes over transgressions because he delights in mercy.”
If a family member or someone else you know has been away from the Church for some time, talk to them about the compassion and mercy of God as revealed in the parables and other passages of Scripture and encourage them to come home. If possible, accompany them to Mass to make the return easier.
Merciful Father, thank you for your infinite love and mercy. Help me to be mindful of my own failings so that I never stand in judgment over those who sin differently to me. Grant me the grace to reveal your compassion and mercy to others.
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