Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Holy Spirit rushed Jesus to the Desert for Spiritual Combat.

"The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him." (Mark 1: 12 - 13).

Sunday 21st February 2021, 1st Sunday of Lent.

Today's short Gospel from Mark (Mark 1: 12 - 15) is packed with spiritual food. Let us consider the key words in our key Scripture for today:
#1. The Holy Spirit: He drove Jesus into the Desert, that is, He compelled Jesus to head to the Desert after His Baptism.
#2. Desert: A place of spiritual combat inhabited by wild beasts.
#3. Satan: The principal antagonist who tempts Jesus and employs the wild beasts.
#4. 40 Days: Critical duration for the Desert experience, the Struggle. Reminds us of Israel's 40 years in the Desert, Moses and Elijah's 40 days fasting.
#5. Wild beasts: A symbol of unsavory characters that haunt the "deserts" of this world. The Prodigal Son was in the abode of wild beasts.

The Temptation of Jesus in the Desert is a key Scripture in Lent to remind us of the real spiritual warfare we are engaged in day after day.

In the early days of my conversion, I heard this Scripture read from the lectern in a Sunday Mass:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
"Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?" (Hebrews 12: 5 - 7).

I left the Mass very happy because I came to understand what was going on in my life. God was not destroying me. He was training me as a son. I emerged from the School of the Desert a couple of years later equipped with this 7-Way Plan to live the Christian life:
#1. Prayer.
#2. Word of God.
#3. Eucharist.
#4. Penance.
#5. Examen.
#6. Ministry.
#7. Spiritual Reading.

Jesus showed me the Way: the 7-Way Plan.

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Friday, February 19, 2021

Light shall rise for you in the darkness.

"Thus says the Lord: If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday." (Isaiah 58: 9 - 10).

Saturday, 20th February 2021, Saturday after Ash Wednesday.

The Bible, God's own Book teaches us about God's mercy and loving kindness. The Church proclaims loudly that the holy Season of Lent is the time of salvation, the favorable season for God to pour out His goodness to His children who are prepared to receive.

Let us consider the promises in the first Reading from Isaiah. There is no doubt that there is darkness and gloom in the world today. The pandemics does not appear to be going away anytime soon. Governments all over the world are jittery. Banks and stock markets are sitting on edge. In all this commotion, the Creator of the universe makes a promise that cannot fail:

#1. Light shall rise for you in the darkness.
#2.  The gloom shall become for you like midday.
#3. The Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land.
#4. He will renew your strength.
#5. You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

There are more promises in Isaiah 58: 9 - 14. You may be tempted to think: Can all this be true? Yes of course if you fulfill the conditions which are not difficult:

#1. Stop oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.
#2. Share your bread with the hungry.
#3. Comfort the afflicted.
#4. Do not mess with the Lord's Day, Sunday.

Father, be merciful and consider our weakness. Help us with your loving power and merciful love for without You, we can do nothing.

The Church helps us know what is pleasing to God by giving us the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. To see the Works of Mercy, click the link below:

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Fasting is not an optional tool in the Christian arsenal.

"Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!" (Isaiah 58: 4).

Friday 19th February 2021, Friday after Ash Wednesday.

Friday is the traditional day of fasting. It is not a coincidence that the first Reading from Isaiah and the Gospel from Matthew today deal with fasting.  You surely know as a Christian that fasting is not optional as part of the armor of living the Christian life. Is there a good way to fast and unacceptable way?

In Isaiah 58, God says that there is an unacceptable way to fast:
"Even when you fast, you argue and fight and ·hit each other with your  wicked/sinful fists. You cannot do these things as you do now and ·believe your prayers are [expect to be] heard ·in heaven [on high]. (Isaiah 58: 4 EXB).
To decode the above:  Fasting and sinning are incompatible. Any fasting done without a repentant heart is useless. The fasting that appears to be recommended here is fasting and the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Jesus adds an important note on fasting:  "But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you." (Matthew 6: 17 - 18).

Listen to God to find out the type of fasting that is acceptable to Him. Pursue His will and not yours.
"See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits" (Isaiah 58: 3).

To see the Works of Mercy, click the link below:

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Apostles forgot three predictions of the Passion and Death of Jesus the Messiah.

"Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9: 22 - 23).

Thursday 18th February 2021, Thursday after Ash Wednesday.

In our key Scripture for today, Jesus made the first prediction of His passion and death. Sad to say, this prediction was rejected by those who heard it and blotted it out of their memory so to speak. They decided to believe what they wanted to believe which of course is falsehood. Accept it or reject it, it is a divine necessity that the Messiah must suffer many things.

The world today is saturated by false doctrines, massive deceptions and fake news. Even the Church, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3: 15) is not spared. Have you heard the phrase: "The smoke of Satan has infiltrated the Church."

Be on your guard. Watch and pray always that you too will not be deceived. If the Apostles could forget three predictions of the passion and death and resurrection of Jesus, who are you to pretend that you are so strong that nothing can shake you?

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”  This is Lent. Pray to understand this Scripture.
The follower of Jesus Christ whose desire is to do the will of God is destined for rejection, suffering and even death. But if he perseveres, he is promised Resurrection.

"Father, in Your will is our peace."

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

You are dust and will return to dust: Ash Wednesday 2021.

"Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return."

Welcome to Ash Wednesday 2021, the beginning of the holy Season of Lent. Let us reflect on four key messages from today's Ash Wednesday Scripture Readings and note the messages.

#1. "Yet even now—oracle of the Lord—return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment." (Joel 2: 12 - 13).

#2. " A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me." (Psalm 51: 12 - 13).

#3. "We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5: 20).

#4. "When you give alms..." (Matthew 6: 2).
“When you pray ... " (Matthew 6: 5).
"But when you fast..."
..(Matthew 6: 6).

Conclusion: Lent is about Metanoia, Conversion. Lent is about turning back to God through almsgiving, fasting and prayer. Lent is about evangelization through being ambassador for Christ.
Finally, Lent is about emerging at Easter with a holy, steadfast and new spirit.

The 40 day period of Lent is God's gift to us to become New Creation.

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Monday, February 15, 2021

What not to forget.

"Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember?" (Mark 8: 17 - 18).

Tuesday 16th February 2021, in the 6th Week in Ordinary Time is Ash Wednesday eve, Mardi Gras.

Each of the questions Jesus fired off to his dull disciples can wake us up to faith and dispose us to understand sacred things and grow in grace in Lent 2021.
#1. "Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
#2. Are your hearts hardened?
#3. Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
#4. And do you not remember?"

The background to the event: Almost immediately after Jesus fed 4000 people, the disciples were worrying that they had forgotten to bring food. Consider this analogy:
After Jesus had healed someone of cancer, he starts to worry about headache. Am I going to die?

#1. Do you not yet understand or comprehend that He who heals you of cancer can heal you of anything? He can even raise you from the grave.

#2. Are your hearts hardened?
Unbelief is often caused by a hardened heart. Unrepentant sin hardens the heart.

#3. Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
When your eyes do not see the wonderful things God is doing for you every day, your ears shut to the joyful sounds of His presence all around you, this is another sign of a hardened heart.

#3. And do you not remember?
Nothing is more tragic than forgetfulness of God's mercies to you. It is like a man who forgets the password to his smart phone. The phone has to be reset and everything wiped out: the memory and every data.

The only way you grow in the knowledge, love and friendship with God is to remember what He has done for you; what He is doing for you. You remember and give thanks. You grow in trust.

"The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." (John 14: 26).

The above Scripture changed how I handle memories of God's wonderful deeds in my life. In my morning prayer every day, I petition the Holy Spirit to reveal to me the wonderful things God has done and is doing in my life so that I can give due thanks to God.

Make friends with the Holy Spirit and He will always cover your back.

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

It is a question of trust. To trust or not to trust.

"The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him [Jesus], seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.  He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” (Mark 8: 11 - 12).

Monday 15th February 2021, in the 6th Week in Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time ends on Tuesday and we enter the holy Season of Lent on Ash Wednesday, February 17th.

The Pharisees touched the nerves of Jesus in our key Scripture for today. How will you feel if your teenage children confront you one day and ask: "When at last will you give us a birthday?" You will be angry because you have been planning and executing beautiful birthday parties every year for sixteen years.

In asking Jesus for a sign, the Pharisees committed the grave sin of the Israelites in the Desert. They witnessed the historic miracle of the Red Sea. They were fed daily with meat and sweet bread. Yet they rose in rebellion against God threatening to march back to Egypt.
God was angry with them. Who would not?

The Pharisees were part of the educated class and knew the Scriptures and the signs Isaiah laid out for recognizing the Messiah: He will open the eyes of the blind and ears of the deaf. He will perform numerous miracles and will teach the people the knowledge of the Lord.  He cast out many demons.  Why then did they provoke Him by asking for a sign? Hardness of heart and pride.

It would appear from the Bible Timeline that the one Sin that offends God deeply is the Sin of Unbelief. Unbelief rolls a number of grave sins into one: ingratitude, ignorance of God and His ways, willful blindness, gross unreasonableness and others.

I do ask the Lord for signs from time to time and He has been gracious in opening my eyes to see the signs that are there all along. I have asked: "Lord are You with me in this project?" The sign the Lord usually gives me is the Sign of the Emmanuel. "I am with you always." Think of it. This is the greatest Sign in Sacred Scripture. Why? All the great Bible characters received this Sign.  If God is with you, then the mission is accomplished. If God is with you, then No fear, No worry, No doubt. All you need is trust.

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