Saturday, March 13, 2021

How were you saved?

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2: 8).

Sunday, March 14th 2021, 4th Week in Lent. This Sunday is called Laetare Sunday, that is: Rejoice Sunday! We have made it to the mid point of Lent. It is a good reason to be joyful.

On the surface, our Scripture verse for today appears simple. But if you can grasp the meaning of Ephesians 2: 8, the insight and light you get will transform your life. You become a new creation freed from the anxiety of how you are doing in your Christian walk.  You come to depend totally on He who gave you freely the gift to become a Christian and the faith to say Yes that Jesus is Lord and Savior.

God looks upon us with merciful love. You remember how the Father of the Prodigal looked upon his emaciated, badly clad and dirty son. He embraced him with loving and tender kindness. Did his son deserve the princely welcome he received? Not at all. This is what happened to you and me. Whether we received salvation through Baptism as infants or later in life, the story is the same. We are saved through God's unmerited favor. No hard work, no striving of ours produced it.

The initiative is 100% from God. Our acceptance of this offer is what is called Faith.
"Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit." (CCC 154), teaches the Church.

Those who refuse to believe in the proclamation of the Gospel for whatever spurious reason are in a bad place. Why? Belief in a credible source and information is a totally human phenomenon teaches the same paragraph 154 of the CCC.

Rejoice therefore in the free gift of salvation and do not grieve the Holy Spirit by your actions. Rather allow the Holy Spirit to transform your minds so that in everything you will discern the will of God and not imitate or conform to the behaviors of unsaved people around you who do not know that this world is passing away.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Humility is a condition for mercy.

"But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner."
(Luke 18: 13).

Saturday 13th March 2021, in the 3rd Week in Lent.

God is rich in mercy. The Scriptures of today's Liturgy are rich in Mercy themes. This is not an accident. Without God's merciful love, no person will be saved. The mistake of the Pharisee in today's Gospel is the mistake that most of us make without knowing it. The Church teaches us to keep the Commandments, to pray and do good works. Many of us try to do all these things and maybe more. It is natural that when we stand before God, we hope that He will remember all that we do.

But God sees us through a different lens: He sees us through His eyes of mercy. Remember Jesus encounter with the "man full of leprosy" who approached Him for healing. "Yes, I want to heal you." And Jesus touched the man. If you can imagine yourself as the woman or man full of leprosy when you approach God for mercy and healing, you will receive what you ask for.

Let us observe a couple of things about the tax collector:
He does not raise his eyes to heaven. He beat his chest, a sign of repentance and sorrow. The Church makes us repeat this gesture when we say the Confiteor (I confess to Almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters... " Humility is a condition for receiving mercy.

We cannot think of mercy without remembering the teachings of Jesus on mercy. Mercy is given to whoever asks for mercy no matter the sin. But he who receives mercy must extend mercy.

I like this Fatima Rosary Prayer:
"O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead ALL souls to Heaven especially those in most need of Your mercy."
When you say this prayer, you become like a beggar who tells another beggar where you found bread. ABC of Mercy:
#1. Ask for mercy.
#2. Be merciful.
#3. Completely trust Jesus for mercy.

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

What does God love?

"He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  (Mark 12: 32 - 33).

Friday 12th March 2021, in the 3rd Week in Lent.

Our key Scripture is from a Doctor of the Law who wanted Jesus to confirm his understanding of the first and greatest commandment of the Law. Jesus was impressed with his answer and encouraged him to stay close to the kingdom of God.

What does it mean to love God with all our heart? I like the explanation of St Catherine of Siena:
To love God with all one's heart means to love what God loves.

What does God love? This is not a tough question if you read the word of God every day.
God loves obedience to His commandments. He loves those who are merciful to orphans, widows and strangers. He loves those who honor Him on the Lord's Day (Sunday).

Ask God in your prayers to reveal to you what He loves.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The People refused to listen to God.

"Thus says the Lord:  "This rather is what I commanded them: Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk exactly in the way I command you, so that you may prosper." (Jeremiah 7: 23).

Thursday 11th March 2021, in the 3rd Week in Lent.

Our key Scripture today comes from Jeremiah 7: 23. It is a stark call to return to obedience. We are all familiar with this Scripture:  "Obedience is better than sacrifice. The attentive ear better than the fat of rams. Disobedience is like witchcraft."

Our Responsorial Psalm 95 shows us 5 ways we should respond to God's call to Obedience this Lent and enjoy the peace and prosperity God promises in our key Scripture:

#1." Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation." God delights in songs.
#2. "Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving."
#3. "Let us joyfully sing psalms to him." Consider the Liturgy of the Hours.
#4. Come, let us bow down in worship." Use your body to worship God. Bow, genuflect and kneel.
#5. "Let us kneel before the Lord who made us."

"Oh, that today you would hear his voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert." (Cf Psalm 95).

Lent is the time of favor and abundant mercy.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Who are the greatest in the Kingdom of God?

"Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5: 19).

Wednesday 10th March 2021, in the 3rd Week in Lent.

Would there be hierarchy of saints in Heaven? Matthew 5: 19 seems to say, definitely. The teaching and practice of the Church has always expressed this. Jesus is glorified when we honor His saints. One of the most beautiful creeds of the Church is: "I believe in the Communion of the Saints."

The Communion of Saints is made up of the Church Militant (the baptized, active in spiritual warfare on earth),  the Church Suffering (the poor souls undergoing purification in Purgatory), and the Church Triumphant (Saints in Heaven).

Every saint in Heaven is not born equal. Hence the Church in its Liturgy stresses beliefs like the following: "The Church honors particularly the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph, the Apostles, Martyrs..."
These are people who  obeyed and taught God's commandments and are therefore called greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Cf Matthew 5: 19).

The Book of the Greatest in Kingdom of Heaven is still open and will not be closed till the Second Coming of Christ. You know the Way to enter it. The reward will be huge and everlasting.

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Monday, March 08, 2021

The Feast of St Frances of Rome.

"You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?" (Matthew 18: 32 - 33).

Tuesday 9th March 2021, in the 3rd Week in Lent is the feast of St Frances of Rome. (1384 - 1440). Italian. A married woman who raised three children in the way of the Lord.  Frances became a Benedictine Oblate and founded a community of Oblates in the heart of Rome. Besides being a wife and mother, Frances was a mystic and very involved in charitable services in Rome. In Frances, we have a unique example of love in marriage as well as in religious life.

Our key Scripture for today deals with trespasses against us which are in our power to forgive. The "Wicked servant" in the NABRE translation is rendered by other versions as: wicked and contemptible slave, contemptible and wicked attendant, evil [wicked] servant [slave]!, You evil servant!, , ‘You scoundrel!

The other servants were deeply outraged by the unmerciful behavior of this servant. Various translators try to convey the feelings to us through the above characterizations. We live in a culture where unforgiveness is rampant.

One thing to note in today's Gospel is crucial: "I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to." What does this mean? The minimum price to pay for Divine Mercy is: ASK. This price is consistent throughout Sacred Scripture. Anyone who asks is forgiven. One who seeks forgiveness is embraced. The door is always open for one who knocks for forgiveness. This is Lent. A most favorable time for mercy and reconciliation. The ABC of Mercy is a tool to remind us of this great truth.

#1. Ask for Mercy.
#2. Be Merciful.
#3. Completely trust Jesus for Mercy.

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Sunday, March 07, 2021

The Feast of St John of God.

"Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4: 27).

Monday 8th March 2021, in the 3rd Week in Lent is the feast of St John of God. (1495 - 1550). Religious. Born Portuguese. Worked and died in Spain. A prodigal of some sort in his younger days. Once he was converted at the age of 40, everything changed. He became fired up with ministry to the poor and the sick. John was a man of many talents and at various times became farmer, soldier and merchant. I knew St John of God as a pamphleteer because at the time I first read his biography, I used pamphlets for evangelization. He became my patron saint and is still one of my patron saints.
St John of God is the patron saint of hospitals, nurses, booksellers, pamphleteers.

Our key Scripture for today touches on the profundity of how God works in the world otherwise called the Divine Providence, Divine Plan, Design, Blueprint. Naaman the Syrian is so unlike our saint, John of God. Naaman is a great soldier, like a Field Marshall. He is of the stature of Ike Eisenhower but Naaman was a leper. The story of his cure in the first Reading (2 Kings 5: 1 - 5) is my favorite story in the Bible.

Naaman was Syrian and not Jewish. Yet God extended His merciful love to Naaman and healed him of leprosy.
St John of God was a Portuguese vagrant. God called him to live in Spain where he worked and founded the Order of Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God still serving the Church today.

"Praise and honour to you, Lord Jesus!
My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word, because with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption. (Psalm 129: 5, 7).

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