1. Introduction On March 23, 2013, thirteen1 South African peacekeepers were killed and 27 others wounded during clashes with rebel forces in the Central African Republic (CAR). The...
Our Journey to Renewal
SUNDAY 06 APRIL
Scripture: John 11: 17 – 27
‘Yes, Lord,’ she (Martha) said, ‘I believe.’ Every Sunday at Mass we recite the Creed which proclaims our faith, each article of which begins with ‘I believe.’ How do you say these words? Is it a recitation of familiar words or is it with with the conviction of absolute belief? Sometimes (especially during the Easter Season and when there is a Baptism at Mass) we are asked to renew our Baptismal Promises. When this happens we are asked, just as Martha was, ‘Do you believe?’ Again, how do you answer? Do you feel like jumping up and shouting ‘Yes Lord, I believe’?
Our Christian faith is born out of this truth of the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection Jesus would have been just another good man, at most a prophet. In his very first address, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter proclaims ‘you killed him, but God raised him to life.’
The words of Jesus to Martha today, followed by his action of raising Lazarus from the dead, prepared his disciples for the event of his own resurrection, prepares us for the celebration of Easter, and reminds us about our personal Easter.
The words ‘I believe’ refer to the essence of our faith. At Easter the Elect (the adults to be Baptised) will be asked ‘what do you ask of God’s Church?’ They will answer ‘Faith’. Then they will be asked, ‘What does Faith offer you?’ they will answer ‘Eternal Life!’ I hope that in churches throughout the world where the Elect are being Baptised, the roof will be raised with this exultant response ‘Eternal Life.’ Its worth shout about. Our ultimate destiny is Eternal Life. Easter proclaims this for us and all those whom we have known and loved who have died and gone before us marked with this great gift of faith.
Look forward in faith today and know that if you walk with Jesus, live with him, endure with him, suffer with him and die with him, you will rise with him. Find a recording of the hymn “The Holy City” and listen to it.
Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world and that you will raise me up to Eternal Life on the last day. Amen.
MONDAY 07 APRIL
Quiet times alone in Church
Scripture: John 8: 1 – 11
“At daybreak he appeared in the temple again”
As a child my mother taught me that whenever I passed a Catholic Church I was to make the sign of the cross to remind myself that I was passing a sacred building housing the Blessed Sacrament. I was also encouraged that whenever possible I should enter the Church and pray. Often when I did this I felt a deep sense of the quiet presence of God. I could hear the traffic and noise of the world outside but I felt safe and protected. It was like being in a place where all seemed right, possible, forgiven. Hurts had a time to be thought through, anger would start to subside, courage would be reinvigorated, and humility would slowly seep in and smooth my evil thoughts. I felt at peace in a chaotic world. I don’t seem to do this too often now – Silly me.
There is a very different feeling on a Sunday when the whole faith family comes together to worship, praise and make offerings.
It seems that I and perhaps others have forgotten the very special and intimate moments we can have with God when we sit quietly, often alone with him in his temple – the church. Here we have a personal encounter with him. Like the woman caught in adultery we can experience his healing and forgiving presence.
Make an effort today to sit quietly in a church. When passing a church remember to make a sign of the cross. Don’t tell anyone what you are doing – just do it. If they ask only then explain it to them.
Almighty God thank you for giving us sacred places to encounter your love, may I use these places and moments to rest in your love. Amen
TUESDAY 08 APRIL
“You will know that I am He”
Scripture: John 8: 21 – 30
Jesus is speaking with a crowd that includes Pharisees and Scribes. He has just spent some time defending His testimony and why He can be trusted.
Jesus has invested much time and energy into producing “signs” and teaching which should have been sufficient evidence for Israel to realize who He was – the Son of God, the promised Messiah.
He has worked miracles of healing, by which He demonstrated that he was God because He had total control over the natural world, and only God has such control.
He cast out demons, which demonstrated that He was God because He had total control over the supernatural world, and only God has such control.
His teachings were seen to have great “authority”, such as the people had never encountered before.
However, to all of this Jesus added a demand – He wanted “repentance”; He wanted spiritual cleansing; He spoke about acknowledgement of sin, the need to turn away from it and find spiritual blessing and enlightenment. When He did that the leaders in particular lost all interest, became angry and hostile towards Him.
He tells them He is “going away”, and that they “will die in their sin”; that where He is going “they cannot come”. In other words He is speaking of His approaching death and ascension to the Father, and because they have rejected Him, failed to accept who He is, failed to accept that they are sinners and in need of salvation, they will die with their sin unatoned for and thus face everlasting death instead of everlasting life.
Each day of our Lenten journey offers us a chance to say, unlike those leaders, “Lord, I believe!” “Lord, I am a sinner”. “Lord, forgive me – wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.”
LIFE ETERNAL awaits us if we do that and act upon the words – change our lifestyles where necessary, and walk in His light. Let us not waste the chance.
Reflect on your life, and look honestly at attitudes, lifestyle and behaviour that could be classed as “sinful”. Resolve to go to confession as soon as possible and experience the healing forgiveness of Jesus.
Lord Jesus, help me to look honestly at my life. Help me to acknowledge where I sin, and give me a spirit of repentance that I may change and walk in your light instead. Amen.
WEDNESDAY 09 APRIL
Scripture: John 8: 31 – 42
“The truth will make you free.” Many people in our free world and our free South Africa still live in slavery; as slaves to sin. Sin imprisons, it holds bound, it oppresses, enslaves and leads to death. Jesus came to free us from our enslavement to sin and to enable us to live as God’s very own beloved sons and daughters.
At the beginning of our spiritual lives we were set free from sin through Baptism and even though we are no longer slaves of sin we continually fall back into the old ways of sin. During this Lenten Journey to Renewal we experience this lure of sin as we try to do our best to follow Jesus with a lively faith. Even though we fail and frequently fall into sin, the power of Jesus, who lives in our hearts, sets us free and helps us, ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven, to make a new beginning.
When you think about it, Jesus was willing to do anything to set us free from sin. He was willing to suffer and die for us. Yet we still allow ourselves to be held bound in slavery – not just by giving in to sin but by living in sin. Why choose to live in sin when you can be set free? Would anybody intentionally want to be a slave and to live as one? The love, mercy, goodness and compassion of God is made real in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Its our opportunity to start again, to be cleansed, to make a new beginning. But we choose rather to live in sin – and the longer we live in sin the more we grow accustomed to the sin. Its like a prisoner who hase been released from prison but has grown so accustomed to being there that he chooses to remain there.
Perhaps one of the reasons why we do this is because we have not made his Word our home; that we do not live by God’s Word, have failed to allow his Word to take root deep in our hearts. In the Lenten Metanoia experience we cleanse our hearts of all the ‘stuff’ that has accumulated there since Baptism or since our last Confession, and we allow the Word made Flesh, Jesus our Saviour, to take up residence there. Then things begin to fall into place. We are no longer slaves to sin. The choices we make are led and guided by his presence within us.
There are many opportunities, in most parishes, to confess our sins and to be set free to make a new beginning during this next week and a half. Millions of Catholics will be going to Confession before Easter. Join them. You are not alone in your sins
Father, open my heart so that your Word may dwell within me, leading, guiding and strenthening me to make a new beginning in faith at Easter. Amen.
THURSDAY 10 APRIL
God Does Not Forget
Scripture: Genesis 17: 3 – 9, Ps 105, John 8: 51 – 59
The Genesis reading for today is bursting with the promises that God made to Abraham. God lays out the terms of the covenant with Abraham, promising fertility, descendants, nationhood, majesty, and permanent real estate. But then the reading ends in a manner both precise and abrupt: God directs Abraham and his descendants to keep the covenant “throughout their generations”.
And if we think that God might forget or change the terms and conditions of his covenant with us; the refrain of the Psalm sets us straight: “The Lord remembers his covenant forever.” The Lord does not forget!
What does the Lenten season remind us to do in the face of this reality? We are reminded to have hope in God’s promise, for God does not forget us, regardless of what we do or do not do. So while the readings challenge us to place God at the center of our lives each day, they also assure us that however many times we get distracted and fill that center with countless other self-important things, the Lord remembers his covenant with us forever.
That is the Good News of this Lenten season.
Reach out to a friend or family member you have not spoken to or seen for a long time. If they live close by go and visit them. If they are further away give them a call or send them an email. Show them that you have not forgotten them!
Loving God, even though I cannot see you; I trust and belive that you are always present to me. Give me the strength and the courage to always be present to you. Amen.
FRIDAY 11 APRIL
Scripture: John 10 : 31 – 42
“I am the Son of God”
Why were the religious leaders so upset with Jesus that they wanted to destroy him? They charged him with blasphemy because he claimed to be the Son of God and he made himself equal with God. As they were picking stones to hurl at Jesus, he met their attack with three arguments. The many works he did, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, and feeding the hungry, demonstrated that his power and marvellous deeds obviously came from God.
Jesus defended his right to call himself the Son of God with a quote from Psalm 82: 6 “I say, “You are gods, son of the Most High, all of you”. Jesus argued that if scripture can speak like that of humans, why should he not speak of himself like that?
Jesus made himself a sin-offering for us, to ransom us from condemnation and slavery to sin. He spoke of his Father consecrating him for this mission of salvation (John 10 : 36). Jesus challenged his opponents to accept his works if they could not accept his words. One can argue with words, but deeds are beyond argument. Jesus is the perfect teacher in that he does not base his claims on what he says but on what he does. The Word of God is life and power to those who believe. Jesus shows us the way to walk the path of truth and holiness. He anoints us with his power to live the gospel with joy and to be his witnesses in the world. Are we doers of God’s Word, or are we forgetful hearers only?
Next week is Holy Week, beginning on Palm Sunday. With your family or with your NSG, make an extra special effort to attend all the Masses and services during Holy Week, especially:
- The Penitential Service on Tuesday and
- The Chrism Mass at the Cathedral on Wednesday. This is a spiritual moving experience – with the blessing of the Holy Oils to be used during the Liturgical Year in parishes.
In addition, read chapters 17, 18 and 19 of the Gospel of John.
Prayer Write upon my heart Lord, the lessons of your holy word, and grant that I may be a doer of your word, and not a forgetful hearer only. Amen
SATURDAY 12 APRIL
The Call To Conversion
Scripture: John 11: 45 – 57
“Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” John 11:45. The people had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. Some, who had witnessed this event, came to believe in Jesus, while others went to report this incident to the Pharisees.
Jesus’ words and actions still divide people today into believers and unbelievers. They attend the same Holy Mass, listen to the same sermon and witness the miracle of the consecration. Some will leave the Church with their faith in Jesus strengthened and renewed while others will leave without being touched by what they witnessed.
Some people who read these daily reflections will hear the voice of God behind the words on the page, calling them to conversion and will act upon what they have heard. Others will read these reflections as just another extra task to do during Lent and will not act upon what God is teaching them.
What accounts for this difference? Simply this – Christianity is not about having the correct information or even the correct behaviour. It’s about having a correct relationship with God through Jesus, his Son.
It is not rules and regulations, but the love of God that changes us. “Do you have contempt for God, who is very kind to you, puts up with you, and deals patiently with you? Don’t you realize that it is God’s kindness that is trying to lead you to him and to change the way you think and act?” Romans 2:4
In which of the two groups listed above will you be when we come to the end of Lent? What do you need to do to ensure that you are in the group that says, “Yes” to Jesus?
Lord Jesus, rid me of all that keeps me from surrendering my life to you and grant me the grace to experience the power of your transforming love 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