A few family members on a recent visit from the United States stayed with me for four days. On departure they presented me with some (exact number is an entirely...
The Journey of Renewal
SUNDAY 16 MARCH
Scripture: Psalm 32: 22 May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.
Today we begin the second week of our Lenten Journey to Renewal. Like every journey we undertake, we must know where we are coming from, where we are at, right now and where we are going to.
This Lenten Journey began on Ash Wednesday with the words “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Our Journey of Life/Faith began with our Baptism when we were set free from sin to walk in the light of faith, a faith which offers us eternal life!
What about our destination? Where are we going to? Our Lenten Journey takes us to Easter; to the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection and a foretaste of our own resurrection; to the renewal of our Baptismal Promises and to a New Beginning. All of this is an anticipation of and a preparation for the end of life’s journey. Our lives will end in death. But death is neither our goal nor our destiny because we believe in the resurrection. Today at Mass we recited ‘I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
This is our faith! This is our hope! This is our destiny!
Lent is a powerful reminder to us about life’s journey, goal and destination: eternal life. Many Christians, however, are motivated into some kind of penitential observance and Lenten penance by fear and a misguided notion of the wrath of God and the need to satisfy and please him in order that we will not be condemned at the end of our lives. Today’s verse of scripture from Psalm 32 should set us on the right path and create within us a renewed sense of what our faith is all about: God’s love for us and our response to his love by placing our complete faith, hope and trust in him – as Abraham did, as Moses did – and as Jesus did when he came down from the mountain of the Transfiguration. He set his face to Jerusalem, knowing the suffering he would experience there but knowing too the resurrection by which he would be glorified.
Do you believe this for yourself?
Have you thought about your death and/or your funeral? Most people have a Will and have made plans for their spouse and family in the event of their death but seldom do people plan their funeral. Some would say that its too morbid a thing to think about. Is it? What will your funeral say about your faith? Too many funerals today are more about sentimentality than about faith. What do you want yours to be about?
Father, may your Love be upon me today as I place my complete faith, hope and trust in you. Amen.
MONDAY 17 MARCH
Feast of St. Patrick
Scripture: Luke 6: 36 – 38
“ … forgive, and you will be forgiven”
The great spiritual writers tell us there is always something to forgive. The more we progress along the spiritual path spending time with God, reflecting on his message for our lives, the more we discover that we are not perfect and have learnt some rather nasty habits.
These habits are frequently are unforgiving attitude towards family members. It might have been a word or action from them that has hurt us. As a result we have an uneasy feeling about them especially when we encounter them at family gatherings. Perhaps we hide it by saying – “She/he has always been like that and won’t change.” Very often there is resentment and unforgiveness there as well.
This Lent we can change and become the one who makes the effort to forgive, reconcile and bring ease to the awkward situation.
Who is the one family member I have difficulty in forgiving? Make contact with them and say something unexpectedly nice.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer pausing over the words – and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…
TUESDAY 18 MARCH
“The greatest among you must be your servant”
Scripture: Matthew 23: 1 – 12
Let’s face it, life is not easy these days. For those blessed with material wealth it appears easy and comfortable on the surface. They seem to afford all the necessities and niceties of life, but that does not mean that they find all aspects of living easy.
For those who are unemployed and unable to earn a living for one reason or another, it is infinitely harder to deal with the harsh realities of life, and many succumb to despair.
When we look at the events of the three years of Jesus’ public life, and the events which led to his arrest, torture, and cruel death on the cross, I suspect that somewhere in the back of many a mind is the sneaking thought that somehow “it was easier for Him because He was God”.
The reality, however, is that when God came into the world in the person of Jesus, “He did not cling to His equality with God but emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are…” (Philippians 2: 6 -7)
For God to have real meaning in your life and mine, He must be able to relate to every experience and emotion that we have – both good and bad. This includes human suffering and pain, being born into a poor family with little resources, exiled into a strange country with no support system, living under the threat of death, falsely accused, ill-treated etc. Jesus has done it all. Through all of this, He was able to be and demonstrate the compassionate, loving, forgiving, and serving nature of God.
That is our challenge. In the midst of whatever trouble we find ourselves in, He is the one we can turn to; He knows and understands because He has been there before. Our challenge is, can we still turn and offer ourselves in service to our brothers and sisters whose need may be as great or even greater than our own?
Find a way to serve someone in need this week – visit the sick, the lonely, the aged. Get involved in feeding those who are hungry. Donate your old clothes to the poor. Contact someone who is struggling through an illness or some hardship.
Lord Jesus, you gave your life in service of others: the sick, the needy, the poor, the outcast, the oppressed. You never stopped to think about the cost to yourself, and ultimately gave your life in Love. Help me to see the opportunities you put in my path to help those who are in need, and help me to give without counting the cost. Amen.
WEDNESDAY 19 MARCH
Feast of St. Joseph
Scripture: Matthew 20: 17 – 28
Our world places such great emphasis on position, power, authority, prestige and control. People will do anything for these and will spend their lives working (and sometimes wheeling and dealing) to attain them.
When Jesus, the Son of God, came among us, chose to live in simplicity and humility: born in a stable, growing up in the home of a carpenter (Joseph, whose feast we celebrate today), living with others in Capernaum, associating with fishermen and other such ‘ordinary’ people. He used his power to heal and forgive, his authority to teach. He never exercised any control over people’s lives but rather invited them to follow him.
Yesterday he said that those who are ‘greatest among you must be your servant’ and ‘whoever humbles himself will be exalted.’ How different the way of Jesus is to the ways of the world! Herein lies our difficulty: we are so immersed and caught up in the attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle of the world that we find it really difficult to take on the way of Jesus. It becomes a constant battle, struggle and hardship for us. Even those who have dedicated their lives to ministry and service in the Church find it difficult to resist the temptation to power, position and control. Humility and service are rare in our world – even in our Church.
How fortunate we are to have the wonderful example and attitude of Pope Francis. In the year that he has been the spiritual leader of our Church he has revealed to the entire world the attitude of humility and service of Jesus. He reminds us that we need to do the same and that it is realistically possible!
Whoever we are, whatever positions we hold, however important we may be – or may not be, our faith calls us to a spirit of humility, sincerity and service. When we take on the spirit of Jesus and the characteristics of our faith: compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, humility, tolerance and forgiveness (remember these from Advent?) our lives begin to change. Our Lenten Journey to Renewal can and will bring about such change in our lives.
Read Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2: 1 – 11.
Father, may I be filled with the spirit of Jesus so that I may life free from arrogance and pride, and come to experience the joy of my faith. Amen.
THURSDAY 20 MARCH
Scripture : Jeremiah 17: 5 – 10, Ps. 1, Luke 16: 19 – 31
Today’s readings invite us to relate to God through our relationships with others.
Both the reading from Jeremiah and the Psalm use imagery from nature to show that those in a relationship with God must act in a particular way. Jeremiah writes that the person who turns away from the Lord is like “a barren bush in the desert,” while the person who hopes and trusts in the Lord “is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretch out its roots to the stream.” The tree cannot grow just anywhere – it must root itself in its source of life. Jeremiah is saying that in order to prosper, our actions must be rooted in our relationship to God.
The Gospel from St. Luke offers a concrete way of living out this message. Just as the tree stretches its roots out to the stream, the rich man has the chance to reach out to Lazarus. Instead, like the barren bush in the desert, the rich man roots himself in something other than God – his wealth. By choosing not to help Lazarus, the rich man is choosing not to enter a relationship with God.
Luke emphasizes that our relationship to God occurs through our relationships with others. Because of God’s preference for the poor, he stresses that our relationship to those who are marginalized is especially important. In contrast to the rich man’s actions, today’s readings invite us to return to our roots by being the presence of God to our neighbour – especially those neighbours in need.
We were encouraged earlier this week to do something for others, especially those most in need. Did you get around to doing something? Days and weeks slip by and despite out best intentions we fail to do something for others. Make a decision today to do something practical to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help someone in need, touch the life of someone who is ill or sad. Just do it!
Father, help me to become sensitive to the needs of those around me. Help me to reach out with compassion, kindness and love. Amen.
Tomorrow is a Public Holiday. Mass is at 9.00am. Make a special effort to hear God’s Word, receive the Blessed Eucharist and join with the community.
FRIDAY 21 MARCH
Scripture: Matthew 21 : 33 – 46
Jesus told the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to people who will produce the right fruit.”
We may wonder how this world of ours has survived the infections with which its inhabitants have polluted it; the depravities, the lies, the betrayals, the injustices. “Behold how the innocent are murdered, and no man stops to consider,” said the ancient prophet. How many times had God to repeat that cry through the centuries, in every nation, on every continent!
Joseph was violently rejected by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt. (Gen. 37:28) His betrayal and suffering, however, resulted in redemption and reconciliation for his brothers. Joseph prefigures Jesus who was betrayed by one of his own disciples and put to death on the cross for our redemption.
Jesus came to reconcile us with our all-just and all-merciful God. His parable today points to the work he came to do – to bring us the kingdom of God. He promises that we will bear much fruit, right fruit, if we abide in him. He also promises that our labour will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end.
Do we labour for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in his victory?
- Today is Human Rights Day. Pray for those who suffer injustices, persecutions, and especially children who are sold into child labour.
- Pray for our youth who are attending the Lenten Youth Camp.
- Invite a friend who is not a Catholic to join you at the Stations of the Cross and experience the Passion of Christ.
Lord Jesus, give us your Light, that we may not blindly reject you, the corner stone of our structure. Amen
SATURDAY 22 MARCH
Jealousy, The Green-Eyed Monster
Scripture: Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
“Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your money with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
Jealousy makes us believe that someone else is getting what we deserve. It also hides behind a mask of self-righteousness. After all, did not the elder son remain with his father and so deserve to be rewarded for his loyalty?
Even the most devout Christian is not immune to the temptation to envy others who are more talented, good looking, popular or richer than we are. An example of this is found in Philippians 1: 15-17. When Paul was in prison, those who were jealous of how God was using him to spread the Good News, preached Christ in order to add to the apostle’s distress.
Which side of the fence are we on? Are we constantly being criticised because we use our talents to build up God’s kingdom on earth? (Read Numbers 12: 1 – 2) Or are we the ones casting stones at our brothers and sisters? (Read Acts 13: 44 – 45)
How can we overcome this harmful attitude? First we must acknowledge the fact that we are jealous. Second, we must confess it. Third, to root it out, pray for that person, thanking God and rejoicing in their good qualities.
Lord, teach me not to complain about the things I do not have, but rather to praise you for your blessings and graces in my life. Amen
These Lenten Reflections are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Fr. Stephen Tully, Deacon Peter Venter, Irene Helsdon, Fr. Brett Williams and Deacon Henry Blair and edited for use in the Parish of Our Lady of Fatima, Durban North. They are written for the glory of God and for the good of His Church and so may be freely copied and distributed. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a blessed and fruitful Lenten Season as together we Journey to Renewal.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Durban North. Lent 2014