At the outset of this week’s reflection it is helpful to remind ourselves of the real meaning of one section in both versions of the Creed we proclaim as our basic profession...
SUNDAY 19 MARCH
Its worth reading the full text of today’s scripture even though you may have heard it at Mass.
Scripture: John 4: 5 – 42
Often we hear people ask the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ I don’t think that it’s a fair question to ask. Be that as it may, today’s Gospel is an extraordinary example of what Jesus was willing to do to being new life and salvation to the Samaritan woman. Jesus did whatever it took even if it meant breaking the customary laws which forbade a Jewish man from talking to a strange woman in public, albeit a Samaritan woman whom Jesus didn’t associate with. There was something greater here and for Jesus that’s all that mattered. He will prepared to put the person before the laws, customs, rules and regulations of the time.
How different we are to Jesus! We fight and argue about people who have experienced ‘stuff’ in their lives being given a chance to make a new beginning. We make a point of holding their past sins, faults and failings against them.
This woman had been man five times and the man she was living with was not her husband. What chance would she have had in the Church today? Her situation didn’t deter Jesus. Not only did he offer her springs of living water but he revealed his identity as the Messiah to her “I who am speaking to you,” said Jesus “I am he.” Is it no wonder Pope Francis used this example of Jesus and the Samaritan woman when asking the Church to consider compassion for those who are divorced and remarried being able to receive ‘the living bread come down from heaven.’
If this Lent is to have any significant impact on our spiritual lives then we must take on the attitudes of Jesus. He came to bring healing, reconciliation and peace. What he offered to the Samaritan woman is exactly what he offers us as well. He gives us his mercy and compassion so that our hearts and our lives can be changed.
When we have a need for his mercy and compassion, when we realise that our lives have not gone exactly to plan and that we have messed up, then we can really appreciate what he did for the Samaritan woman and what he does for us. This is nothing short of extraordinary! Then we will want this to happen with others too – those who, like us, Jesus came to seek out and save as well. Nobody is beyond redemption and salvation – regardless of what has happened in their lives! This is the Good News that we need to hear this Lent. This is the Good News we need to bring to others, especially those who feel rejected, neglected and excluded because of what has happened in their lives.
The Samaritan woman, having encounted the mercy and compassion of Jesus, went back to her village and told the people “Come and see the man who has told me everything I ever did.” Having encounted Jesus she brought her village to a personal encounter with him as well, causing them to say “Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him for ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.” WOW!!
Think about your need for Jesus and the mercy and compassion he offers you. The Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist are where we experience, in a deep and personal way, the mercy and compassion of Jesus. Tomorrow is a public holiday. Go to Mass at 8.30am and plan ahead to go to Confession on Saturday at 4.30pm or at the Penitential Service on Tuesday 11 April at 7.00pm. When you have received the mercy and compassion of Jesus, go and tell others so that they may have the same experience too.
God of mercy and compassion, thank you for sending your Son Jesus who brings us healing, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. Make me whole once again and help me to be merciful and compassionate. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
MONDAY 20 MARCH
Feast of St. Joseph
Scripture: Matthew 1:16 – 24
For human beings, the ways of God are a mystery, far beyond human ability to comprehend, and therefore, we humans often find it difficult, if not impossible, to understand some of the teachings and requirements made by God, for our entry into Heaven.
Joseph, the husband to Mary and earthly father of Jesus, believed and accepted implicitly, the fact that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, while at the same time he could not understand how this could be. For Joseph this was not an issue however, because he acknowledged that it was the will of God conveyed to him via an angel and so he accepted it without question, as the truth. There was no doubt in his mind. If God said it was so, then it was.
Today, many well-meaning Catholics doubt some aspect of Church teaching simply because they cannot understand what is being taught. So they refuse to accept it! What we forget is that there are many things that we humans do not understand, in and outside of the teaching of the Church, but the faithful still accept that these teachings exist. Unbelievers however, seem to have selective hearing and accept only what they want to hear and ignore what they don’t like. The fact remains, however, that Jesus promised to watch over His Church until the last day, actively present in all that it says and does. So, it should be a relief to us, to know that Jesus is watching over us and ensuring that we will always know God desires and so be able to act according to his will.
This promise seems to have been ignored or at least forgotten by many Christians because they know better!
Lent is a good time for us to commit ourselves whole heartedly to the faith and to work towards a love of God’s holy laws, accepting them, unabridged and without amendment. St. Joseph is a wonderful example for us.
This is really the only way that we can truly be Catholic and followers of God through His son Jesus Christ, with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Give some thought today to what you find difficult to accept about our faith and the teachings of the Church. Are you willing to seek clarification? Pray: Lord I believe! Help my unbelief.
Father, help me to be a person of faith as St. Joseph was. May I be open to do your will in my life and to place my complete faith, hope and trust in you. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
TUESDAY 21 MARCH
Scripture Psalm 25 “Remember your mercy O Lord”
Matthew 18: 21- 35 “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
How wonderful is our God of mercy and compassion! No matter how far we stray or what bad deeds we do, God is always merciful towards us.
When Peter enquired from Jesus how often we must be prepared to forgive, the frequency that Jesus tells him, “seventy seven times” suggests that we are called to forgive – no matter how many times one might sin. This is the strength of the love that God has for us and He wants us to share the same love with each other.
There are times, however, when we reject the love that God has for us and we put his mercy and compassion to the test by our refusal to forgive – like the servant in today’s gospel. He was in great debt to his master. The master, on finding that his servant was unable to cover his debt, had no hesitation in showing compassion and released him from his burden. But the forgiven servant was so unlike his master, refusing to show mercy and compassion to his fellow servant.
That is not how God is with us. He does not want us to be held back by the past mistakes that we have made. He knows that by carrying the burdens of the past we cannot progress in life and faith. An essential part of our faith is to be as compassionate as our Father is compassionate. As God is merciful to us so too should we be merciful to one another.
We bring jidgement upon ourselves by our hardness of heart. This is why we ask God to change our hearts during this Lenten season, that we may be more like him: loving, merciful and compassionate.
Give some thought today to those in your life who are in need of your mercy and compassion. Ask Jesus to help you to do what you know you need to do.
Father I am so grateful for the love, compassion and forgiveness that You show to me. Help me to be like you in these same ways for only you can “Change my heart O God” Amen.
WEDNESDAY 22 MARCH
Scripture: Deut 4: 1,5–9. Matthew 5:17-19 “The man who keeps the commandments and teaches them will be considered great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
In the Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy Chapter 4 the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land led by Joshua. Moses’ final exhortation to them regarding God’s Laws which He had given them was “Tell them to your children and your children’s children.” In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus reiterates the words of Moses to keep the Commandments and to teach them to others.
When a child is baptized, there is a blessing prayed over the father. “You and your wife will be the first teachers of your child in the ways of faith. May you be the best of teachers bearing witness to God by all that you say and do.” Faith begins in the home and should grow and blossom within the family. While parents are to be the first teaches of faith to their children, every Catholic has the responsibility to teach and share their faith with others.
It is not uncommon to hear Catholics say that they don’t know enough about their faith to feel sufficiently confident to teach others and yet, just sharing the reasons why your faith is important to you, can be a starting point for the other person to embark on their own journey of faith.
The Church offers a number of programmes where people who are searching for faith or who want to learn more about their faith are invited to attend. Sadly many Catholics shy away from the important duty to be beacons of faith in our homes, schools, workplace, and community for fear of ridicule and being ostracised for our faith.
In Sunday’s Gospel we heard how the people came to believe in Jesus based on the Samaritan woman’s testimony. (John 4:39) How will the message of God’s love, mercy and compassion and His free gift of Eternal Life ever reach others if we are too afraid to share our experiences of faith with them?
Take a few moments to think back about how you came to faith. Who were the people in your life who helped you to grow and experience the wonders of your faith? Who are the people you have had the privilege of sharing your experiences of faith with? Whom do you know may be waiting for an invitation from you to attend Mass during this season of Lent so they too can have a personal encounter with Jesus?
Father, thank you for the people who have helped me to grow in my faith. Help me to see the many opportunities where I can share my faith with others. Make me brave in the face of ridicule. Make me strong when I face negativity from others. Strengthen me in my faith so that I, in turn, can be a beacon of faith to others. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
THURSDAY 23 MARCH
Scripture: Luke 11: 14-23
Beelzebul or sometimes Beelzebub was a demon or evil spirit second only to Satan and his name is translated as “Lord of the flies” (that is where William Golding got the name of his haunting novel). Possession of people by demons or devils continues to this day and the International Association of Exorcists made up of two hundred and fifty priests is recognised by the Vatican. When the rivals of Jesus could not beat Him fairly, they resorted to slander. We often do this without realising it because we have no honest answer or opposition to some event.
In today’s scripture the source of Jesus’s healing power is questioned and those who were hell-bent on denying the source as God Himself, suggest that it is Beelzebul. This is like saying that water is dry or the sun is dark – it is a contradiction in itself and Our Lord points this out.
Knowing what was in their hearts (fulfilling Simeon’s prophesy that the “secret thoughts of many would be laid bare”) Jesus further challenges them as to the power source of their own exorcists is as it could not possibly have been the same source that possessed people in the first place. This would have posed a real problem for them and Jesus’ comment silences them.
This is not the first time that Jesus shows He is on a path of defeating the devil. It is not the first time that He states that He is stronger than the devil and that the kingdom of God has overtaken evil. He issues a warning that people are either for Him or against Him.
There is no Switzerland (symbolising neutrality) in a relationship with Him. It is through the mercy and compassion of God through the person of Jesus the Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit that all evil is ultimately destroyed. The Good News for us is that our sins which are evil, no matter how worldly opinion and language try and disguise them, are capable of being forgiven. This through the power of God because Jesus defeated evil on His Cross and through His resurrection.
Hum or sing the hymn “God forgave my sins in Jesus’ name” and in this way identify with the release of the man who was healed.
God of mercy and compassion permit me to acknowledge and seek you as the source of the power that allows me to say “I am forgiven”. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
FRIDAY 24 MARCH
Scipture: Mark 12: 28 – 34 “You are not far from the Kingdom of God”
R.S. Thomas, a Welsh poet (1913 – 2000), wrote a verse entitled ‘The Kingdom’.
It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
is king and the consumptive is healed;
Mirrors in which the blind look
at themselves and love looks back;
And industry is for mending
the bent bones and the minds fractured by life.
It’s a long way off, but to get there
takes no time and admission is free,
if you purge yourself of desire,
and present yourself with your need only
and the simple offering of your faith, green as a leaf.
Thomas begins by saying the Kingdom is “a long way off” but then tells us that it “takes no time to get there”, if we are filled with compassion and faith.
Jesus tells the scribe in today’s gospel that he “is not far from the kingdom of God”. All that is required is to put into action the two great commandments of “loving God” and “loving neighbour”.
Faith is a gift from God and those of us who claim it are blessed indeed. But, it is not enough to receive the gift – we have to put it into action. We are called to be faithful to God by being loving and compassionate. That is demanding, to say the least. To love as Jesus loves us, demands self-sacrifice; it demands commitment to trying to live out that love, day after day, hour after hour.
Let us ask Jesus to strengthen our compassion, and to give us the faith that His mother, Mary showed throughout her life, and especially when it was most difficult to exercise that gift.
Is there some act of charity that you can do for someone else that will allow you to express your gratitude for God’s love of you and gift of faith? Go ahead and do it!
Heavenly Father, may Your Kingdom come into our world through the transformation of our hearts and minds. Send Your Spirit into our lives so that we might emulate our Mother Mary, and the great saints who believed deeply and tried to love others by sacrificing self. Amen. Change my Heart O God!
SATURDAY 25 MARCH
Scripture: Luke 1: 26 – 38
The Annunciation of Our Lord is one of the greatest incidents in the scriptures. Each day we stop whatever we are doing at the beginning of the day, in the middle of the day and at the close of the day, to pray the Angelus and to remind ourselves of this greatest event in human history: The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us! This is the wonder of our God who, in the fulness of time, took on our humanity and came to lead us away from our sinful past to the great gift of salvation.
During this week we have encountered the words ‘mercy and compassion’ almost every day. This is what God came among us to do. Emmanuel ‘God is with us’ came to bring, as we were reminded earlier in the week; healing, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. We are the recipients of these gifts. All we have to do is to be as open to God as Mary was. “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” Mary’s consent makes our salvation possible. Our consent makes our salvation real!
Our faith isn’t some kind of magic or a supersticious religious experience. Faith requires an open, willing heart, a genuine and sincere commitment. Saying yes to God was only the beginning for Mary. To bring her ‘yes’ to fulfillment she would have to place her complete faith, hope and trust in him. This is exactly what we reflected on on Monday when we celebrated the feast of Mary’s husband, St. Joseph. God entrusted himself to these two people of great faith. Today he entrusts himself to us. We are the Marys and Josephs of our time. Emmanuel ‘God is with us’ is truly among us through ordinary people like ourselves – ordinary but nevertheless people of faith.
In the Holy Eucharist the Word is made Flesh and dwells not just among us but within us. Like Mary we also become bearers of Jesus. The Annunciation plays itself out in the celebration of every Mass, every day, everty minute of the day! When you are at Mass today and/or tomorrow allow yourself to be open to God as Mary and Joseph were. Pray Mary’s words: “let it be done to me as you have said.”
God is doing something wonderful in your life, just as he did in the life of Mary. Invite someone who has not been to Mass for a while to accompany you to Sunday Mass. It is Laetare Sunday – the Sunday of Joy as we anticipate the nearness of the Lord’s Resurrection (remember to wear pink!). If they say ‘no’ then that’s their choice. Its an invitation.
Father, thank you for coming among us to share our human weaknesses and the many challenges we face every day. You are truly with us in everything we encounter and experience. Strengthen me through your presence in my life and may I always be mindful of your mercy and compassion. 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.