Daily Reflections for Lent

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Ash Wednesday

Have mercy on me, O God…blot out my transgressions [Psalm 51:1a].

As we begin this holy season of Lent -- a time to grow in awareness of God’s presence and forgiveness in our lives -- there is a short prayer by Saint Ephraim the Syrian which can help us focus on the freedom, patience, and love God wishes to bestow on us in Christ: “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” In modern language, it goes like this:

God of my life,
Take from me my inclinations toward
Passivity, despondency, power, and idle talk.
Give me rather a longing for
Wholeness, humility,
Patience, and love.
My Lord and God,
Allow me to see my own errors
And not to judge my brother or sister,
For You are blessed forever.

Amen

Lent is not solely about preparing for the joys of Easter forty days from now. Lent is “now.” “Now” is the time to embrace God’s love again; “now” is the time to long for Wholeness, Humility, and Patience -- blessings God gives forever “now.”

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Amen

 

 Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Happy are those who make the Lord their trust [Psalm 40:4a].

The Scriptures in Lent waste no time asking us to choose: "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity." The choice is not whether to give up chocolate or alcohol for Lent this year (although choosing to do so may be symbols of a deeper "letting go" in order to embrace something more meaningful). The choice is — without trying to sound melodramatic — between life and death, of walking in the ways of Christ or in the trivialities of self-centered glitter: "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live."

How do we make the choice for life? By opening ourselves to God’s love coming to us every day, Crucified, Healing, and Forgiving.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) God, teach us to delight in Your law of life.

Amen

 

Friday after Ash Wednesday

A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise [Psalm 51:17b].

The Church has an age-old tradition of fasting periodically.

The teaching is that this is pleasing to God if and when it makes us see more clearly the difficulties of those who are poor and hungry, and moves us to alleviate their plight in some way. Isaiah tells us that to fast "only to quarrel and to fight," and then to ignore the poor by not sharing what we have left over, is unacceptable to God.

These are sobering thoughts on this World Day of Prayer, especially since prayer obviously does not excuse us from doing something about the fact that one billion people are malnourished while another billion are overweight.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) May the penance we do help us persevere in sincere love.

Amen

 

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth [Psalm 86:11a].

Isaiah continues to encourage us — who consider ourselves to be basically "good people" — to recognize our sins and need for forgiveness and a change of heart. As "basically good people," we nevertheless find ourselves prone to burdening others, pointing fingers, speaking evil, and failing to share our food/wealth.

Jesus speaks of a change of heart. Part of that involves forgiveness; but forgiveness primarily benefits me. Another dimension of a change of heart involves a good and healthy conscience, which will benefit others.

A change of heart is not only something "good people" receive — it is also something we give ourselves: "I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance."

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Divine Physician, heal us of our ailments.

Amen

 

First Sunday of Lent

First Sunday of Lent

I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them [Psalm 91:15b].

What do I hope to accomplish in Lent this year? What is it really important for me to focus on?

Many of us ask these questions of ourselves every Lent. With some experience, we often find ourselves asking them with a certain lack of enthusiastic embrace: Few seem to notice how hard I worked on — maybe even accomplished — my Lenten goals last year, or the years before for that matter! To be honest, it is hard for me to point to my own "success rate." And so, the above questions are often accompanied by an element of guilt and failure as well as hope.

But guilt is seldom the best motivator. It wasn’t guilt that drove Jesus into the wilderness — it was the Spirit. It isn’t guilt that makes the Church ask us to focus on Fasting, Praying, and giving Alms during Lent — it is the Spirit. It isn’t guilt that makes close to one billion people stop and take stock, year after year — it is the Spirit.

So it is with you and me. What do you and I want to accomplish by "going to the wilderness" this year? Maybe "just" to reach that quiet place deep within where I remember God once having looked at me with compassion and love. What do I hope to find there? Maybe nothing more than God still waiting for me in the hope that I will, once again, turn my eyes to meet the eyes of my Creator’s love and compassion.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. [Matthew 4:4]

 

Monday of the First Week of Lent

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life [John 6:63b].

Today’s readings point to what may be at the root of the woes of our world: We don’t love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Maybe that is what is "basic" in our being "basically good people." Few of us can say we aren’t selective about whom we associate with, where we look when the hunger of others presents itself to us, or the way we just don’t notice the suffering "at our doorstep".

It’s deceptive, however, "Lord, when did we see you…?"

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) God, make us mindful of the dignity You have given us all.

Amen

 

 Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all [Psalm 34:19].

Isaiah tells us that God’s Word effects what it says: "So shall My Word … accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it." Because this is so, Jesus can tell us that our words, when sincerely addressed to God, will likewise effect what they say: "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

God’s Word and God’s Will are the same, and we’re asked to be that voice in the world!

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Lord, help us to grow in our desire for You.

Amen

 

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise [Psalm 51:17b].

By his preaching, Jonah became a sign of conversion to the people of Nineveh, resulting in their believing God. What kinds of signs and miracles do we usually look for? Something spectacular and supernatural?

I have never been to Lourdes, but I hear from almost everyone who has been that the signs and miracles that occur there are not so much related to physical healing as to the gift and joy of faith with which people return from there. How could the healing presence of Christ be more biblical? "For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation."

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Renew us in Your Spirit, O God.

Amen

 

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

On the day I called, You answered me [Psalm 138:3a].

I have an acquaintance on whom the cliché, "If it wasn’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all" fits all too well. Problems with health, career choices, relationships, etc. keep adding to his woes. His prayers are as sincere as my own or those of our friends, yet, so far, the "luck" or "good fortune" of our lives are playing out very differently.

Our readings today present us with the mystery of suffering and of having our prayers answered. The only answer is Jesus’ promise that God does hear us, and that, in the end, God’s love alone will prevail.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Gracious God, heal our souls and build us up in love.

Amen

 

Friday of the First Week of Lent

If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? [Psalm 130:3].

Last year at this time, Pope John Paul II, on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, asked God’s pardon and forgiveness for the sins and cruelties Catholics have committed against other people — Jews, Muslims, women, etc. — down through the ages. It was a powerful Act of Contrition, but many outside the Church saw it merely as a halfhearted gesture in that the Pope didn’t ask pardon and forgiveness from the very people on whom these wrongs had been inflicted.

What are we to think about this? Jesus uses strong language in today’s gospel about reconciling with those we may have hurt before worshiping God; He wants us all — whether Pope or pauper — to make reconciliation a way of life. As Catholics, let us not merely "hide" behind this significant gesture of the Pope. We all need to look at how we, personally, deal with this ongoing challenge from Jesus.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live. [Ezekiel 33:11]

 

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord [Psalm 119:1].

"If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?", often feel like the most challenging words in the Scriptures. Love is difficult. Our notions of love are most often limited to loving those who love us. Even in the best of circumstances, most of us rarely get beyond loving those who love us for very long. We still have so much to learn about love. Let us entrust our loving to the One Who truly loves us.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Jesus, grant us the gift of Your mercy.

Amen

 

Second Sunday Of Lent

Second Sunday of Lent

The Lord is my light and my salvation [Psalm 27:1a].

My parish church has some beautiful murals throughout the choir. On the back wall, we have the Nativity scene on the left, the Magi coming in from the East on the right, while an image of the Trinity is at the top in the center, wrapped in a Mandela. In the ceiling, the Transfiguration and the Ascension are depicted. When my wife and I first joined this parish, I remember being puzzled that these three scenes from the life of Jesus had been put together. Maybe I was just so used to seeing the Lord’s Supper or the Crucifixion that a "different scenario" made me pay attention in a way I otherwise might not have.

One Sunday, it hit me: Of course! These are three manifestations of the unique reality of Jesus: frail fallible people — shepherds, magi, disciples — experiencing "the divinity of Christ Who humbled Himself to share our humanity," as we pray at every Mass. Each scene shows Heaven communicating with earth in a way we would normally consider beyond the grasp of human reason.

Is this not what Incarnation is all about? Is this not what Eucharist is all about? Is this not what we celebrate and are called to become by partaking in the Eucharist celebrated on that altar every Sunday? The Last Supper and the Crucifixion are "depicted" in that choir space, as well, in our communication with Heaven in the words and actions of the priest on behalf of all of us.

All these "choir scenes" are also a mirror to us of what we are. When we take and eat, we acknowledge and enter into God’s communication; in this act, we, too, profess the desire to be changed, transfigured manifestations of the divine glory of Christ.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Open our heart to the voice of Your Word.

Amen

 

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

[God] does not deal with us according to our sins [Psalm 103:10a].

How many of us would want to be judged by the same standards by which we judge others? Let me venture a guess: Not many. On the other hand, how many of us would feel inclined to be as merciful and forgiving toward others as we would wish them to be toward us? Again, probably not many.

Jesus said the things He did, not simply because it was part of His "program" to say them — He said them because He looked around and noticed how we treat each other day in and day out. He looked, and He thought, "Something, someone’s gotta give"; He looked, and He said: "Give of God’s compassion and mercy, and it will be given to you." Life is really that simple.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) God of mercy, give us the spirit of compassion.

Amen

 

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

To those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God [Psalm 50:23b].

We have just come through another "election season." Once again, much political strategizing dealt with courting the religious vote. To many of us, it can appear rather phony and hypocritical. The prophet Isaiah thought the rulers and shakers of his day would pay for their religious hypocrisy.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that political leaders do not have a monopoly on religious hypocrisy — religious leaders are susceptible as well. Actually, Jesus is speaking to the desire in all of us to help our popularity along by an easy flow of words never intended to be followed up with action. This may work in our realm, but not in God’s.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) May the Word of Christ make us act what we speak.

Amen

 

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

Save me in Your steadfast love [Psalm 31:16b].

My sister called the other day, needing some encouragement:

Her teenage daughter is going through a serious state of rebellion against everything they have tried to teach her. In this case, we all know it’s "that age." Underneath, however, we can’t help feeling baffled and hurt when ingratitude is all we reap for the good we try to do. It is a question similar to the one Jeremiah raises today: "Is evil a recompense for good?"

It is not an easy question to answer. We all expect to get something for something, even the mother of Zebedee’s sons. In His answer to her, Jesus tells all of us not to focus on what we will get, but on what we give … there’s no other way to get what we most deeply desire.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) May our deepest desire always be God’s life in us.

Amen

 

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Happy are those who make the Lord their trust [Psalm 40:4a].

The rich man cast longing glances to the place where Lazarus lay in the Bosom of Abraham, but it was too late for him to reach out and receive any solace for his agonizing thirst. In life, he had put his roots down elsewhere. Jeremiah tells us of the blessings of thrusting our roots wholeheartedly into the living waters of God. "Wholeheartedly," because the heart can otherwise easily delude us and lure us with concerns pertaining only to ourselves. Even if we don’t probe our heart, God does.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) God, make our heart whole by serving You.

Amen

 

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Remember the wonderful works [the Lord] has done [Psalm 105:5a].

There are, reportedly, street gangs that, by way of initiating a new member, require that he or she kill somebody. It is almost impossible to comprehend such disdain for life. Yet even the Bible is full of stories of brothers killing brothers, simply out of jealousy. Only Reuben’s words, "Let us not take his life … shed no blood," saved Joseph and perhaps the whole history of Israel. How many of God’s "dreams" are thwarted when young people kill young people or when nations eliminate nations in war? The blood of the Cross was shed for us because God will not give up the "dream" of sharing the fullness of life with us. "Let us not take his life … shed no blood."

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me. [Psalm 30:2]

 

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

The Lord is merciful and gracious [Psalm 103:8a].

Our readings today are about God’s forgiveness. Micah invokes God’s power and willingness to pardon human crimes, faults, and anger, exclaiming that God even "delights in showing clemency"! All this comes out in Jesus’ story today. The lavishness of undeserved forgiveness never ceases to startle us. We wonder whether such a level of forgiveness really can be possible, even for God. We even try to calculate "implied conditions." But there are none! The wonder is that it lies in the very definition of forgiveness to be uncalculated, yet we still try to calculate when, why, how, and how much to forgive so as not to be fooled. Thank God that God’s foolishness is greater than our wisdom!

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Teach us refuge at Your table, Lord

Amen

 

Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent

The Lord is merciful and gracious [Psalm 103:8a].

I have noticed that I don’t notice as much as I used to. Thinking this, I can hear my mom in my mind’s ear saying: "That’s what happens when you get older — your mind is somewhere else." It’s a point well taken. But I also think there is something else going on: We’re constantly bombarded with ever more sensory information each day! Somehow, we become numbed, as it were, to the tragedies, injustices, blessings, and graces all around us. The overabundance of entertainment deadens our awareness to what goes on in our world; to go "in depth" on the evening news means a maximum of three minutes! Someone has decided that we can’t — or shouldn’t — handle any more.

This creates a problem: If a bush that burns without being consumed by the flames were to be brought to our attention, would there be enough time to get the point that this sign is trying to make? Would it be worthwhile to try to awaken our awareness? Or would we — or someone else — actually notice long enough to stop, turn aside, and realize the voice of God speaking in it?

Moses noticed, and the story shows that he almost regretted it when God gave him a task that would take him out of his comfortable, quiet life. But his awareness was sharpened when he noticed that God had noticed, too: "I have observed the misery of My people who are in Egypt … Indeed, I know their sufferings." Once Moses saw that God had seen, he could no longer close his eyes, numb himself to the tragedies, injustices, blessings, and graces all around him.

Are we going to notice the burning bushes around us, stop, and turn aside? It is how we find out who God is!

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Let Your compassion, O God, fill us with hope.

Amen

 

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

[David’s] line shall continue forever [Psalm 89:36a].

Saint Joseph was a just man. There were many "just men" in his day. When the tradition of the Church calls Joseph "just," it doesn’t merely mean that he was fair and evenhanded. In the Bible, the "just" one is whoever conscientiously observes God’s Law, i.e., trusting the Word of God "no matter what." It was this trust that enabled him to take Mary as his wife. Yet, this trust was not "automatic" or unreflected: "Look, Your father and I have been searching for You in great anxiety."

The house of Joseph in Nazareth housed a family which, wholly centered in contemplative openness to God, considered themselves bound to each other by enduring ties in shared responsibility for the well-being, growth, and support of one another. No wonder Joseph is the patron of the universal Church!

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Give us of the unselfish love which Saint Joseph embodied.

Amen

 

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Be mindful of Your mercy, O Lord [Psalm 25:6a].

Our readings continue to reveal the theme of forgiveness to us. It seems to be the theme in Lent! Has anybody ever canceled a debt you knew you would never have been able to repay? Have you ever canceled the debt of another whom you knew had no chance of ever repaying you? Forgiveness is not a theme merely for Lent — it is a theme for all of life. But Lent is a good place to start.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Teach us concern for the poor.

Amen

 

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem [Psalm 147:12a].

Johan Sebastian Bach, the great baroque composer, was born on this day in 1685. He wasn’t very famous during his lifetime; out of thousands of musical works he wrote, only ten were published prior to his death. Baroque music follows a logical, given set of musical laws, which Bach knew and observed diligently, and in the process he made harmonious music that speaks to the soul of the surety of God’s unfathomable love for us all.

Both Jesus and Moses encourage us, in today’s readings, to know, enter, and observe the Laws of God diligently, for they have a suitable purpose beyond this life: "You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment."

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) May we praise You in song, O God.

Amen

 

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

O that today you would listen to His voice! Do not harden your hearts [Psalm 95:7b-8a].

Jeremiah and the Psalmist both ask us to listen to the voice of God. To listen means to give attention with the ear and to pay heed. It is something active.

We all hear a lot — sometimes too much — even without trying to. But listening is an act that takes an effort on our part. The effort is to be quiet and still enough for God to tell us who we are and who we can become.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me. [Psalm 118:5]

 

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

I am the Lord your God. Hear, O My people [Psalm 81:10a, 8a].

Are the educated always wise? The answer to this probably depends to some extent on who you ask, but most would probably also agree that it’s not a given. The Scribes at the time of Jesus were the intellectual elite, but the gospels tell us that Jesus didn’t always consider them imbued with wisdom. The one today is an exception: He recognized the divine wisdom in what Jesus said, and Jesus proclaimed Him to be close to the reign of God.

When we embrace the command to love "God with all your heart and … your neighbor as yourself," then we, too, are close to the reign of God. "Those who are wise understand these things; those who are discerning know them."

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) May Your wisdom keep us from falling into sin.

Amen

 

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice [Hosea 6:6a].

There were two sinners in the Temple that day; one knew who he was, the other did not. One knew who he was because he knew where to find the presence of God’s goodness: in God’s merciful forgiveness. The other did not know this. Therefore, the first one "went home" that day forgiven, the other did not. One was Archbishop Oscar Romero, the other, his assassin. The day was March 24, 1980.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) God, be merciful to me, a sinner! [Luke 18:13]

Amen

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Fourth Sunday of Lent

O taste and see that the Lord is good [Psalm 34:8a].

There comes a point when most of us decide to "cut our losses."

It may be at the casino or in the stock market, but it could also be in our relationships, sometimes even within our immediate family. We may be moved to do so when we judge we have "lost enough" pride, or respect, or are in over our heads. At other times we do it by simply "writing people off" as not worth of our time or energy. The latter is what happens in today’s gospel: Those who felt "special" and "chosen" (Pharisee in Hebrew means "separated out"), complained that Jesus didn’t write off the sinners who had wandered astray. "They got themselves lost; let them stay lost!"

Jesus answers with a story of how two sons got lost, one by leaving home, the other by staying home. When they both return, one doesn’t dare to be received into his home — he thinks he has lost his home forever; the other doesn’t want to enter his home — he thinks his home has lost its "special" place for him. In both cases, the father has to come out to meet them and try to convince them otherwise.

It is so easy to become "lost." Sometimes, it happens when we want to try everything we should stay away from; at other times, it happens when we are content to let others "get lost" and "stay lost." Both situations can lead us to "cut our losses" in one way or another. But the physical and/or emotional separation we may inflict will never cause God to rescind our relationship: The God of Jesus Christ is never resigned to consider any of us a "lost cause."

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Let us hasten to Easter in faith and love.

Amen

 

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Here I am…I delight to do Your Will, O my God [Psalm 40:7a,8a].

"Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." This greeting of the Angel Gabriel may be the most quoted piece of Scripture in the Catholic world. For almost a thousand years, monks and soldiers, nobles and peasants have recited it as part of the Hail Mary in the Angelus three times a day and, since the thirteenth century, the rosary as well. These time-honored Catholic devotions — as well as today’s feast — honors the Annunciation of the Incarnation of Christ, God with us. We rejoice and celebrate that the Angel’s greeting found a receptive ear in a young virgin who allowed God’s Word to favor her and the whole world. In gratitude to God, we join her and say: "Here I am…I delight to do Your will, O my God."

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Look, the young woman is with Child and shall bear a Son, and shall name Him Immanuel. [Isaiah 7:14]

 

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge [Psalm 46:7].

With few exceptions, water is the best kind of cleansing known to us. How often do we read about rinsing chemical compounds out with water, or what better refreshes us than a good, long shower?

The Bible often refers to the cleansing and healing properties of water. Ezekiel has a vision of how water, flowing from the Temple in Jerusalem, will revive stagnant land and stagnant water so it becomes fresh and fertile. Jesus, John tells us, is God’s Word of healing, the living water that cleanses all our infirmities, makes us well and refreshed, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me, and let the one who believes in Me drink" (John 7:37-38).

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) All who thirst, come to the waters of God.

Amen

 

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

The Lord is gracious and merciful [Psalm 145:8a].

We live in an age in which many feel the world and its inhabitants have been abandoned by God. They read the past as one where God’s presence was secure and obvious. Yet, it doesn’t take much reading in the Hebrew Scriptures to realize that the Chosen People struggled with the same uncertainty. Isaiah challenges such a view by asking if it is possible that a mother should forget her child. A mother’s love indicates the care and concern God has for us. That God should care so intimately for us is a foreign thought to many, but Isaiah assures us that a mother will sooner forget her child than God will forget or abandon us.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Teach us to see and share Your love every day.

Amen

 

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Remember me, O Lord, when You show favor to Your people [Psalm 106:4a].

God led the Israelites through the desert by a burning light in the night, but the people soon took that for granted and lost their focus and determination and Moses had to plead on their behalf. John the Baptist was likewise a burning light pointing to Christ, the Light of the World. Christ gives His light to us day and night. Are we letting it shine and guide us, or are we taking it somewhat for granted and losing our focus and determination to be that light to others, day and night?

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) May others see the light of Christ within us.

Amen

 

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit [Psalm 34:18].

The last line in today’s gospel always reminds me of an incident that took place on the playground back in third grade. A group had gathered around two boys fighting — one strong and popular, the other scrawny and ostracized. The beating the latter received was greeted with glee; even though we knew him, we denied that by making him an "it," an impersonal entity. We did so by never "meeting" his eyes. That day, as he tried to escape the surrounding crowd, his eyes met mine and locked them in. I saw in them his light and his dignity. I let him in, and saw to it that "no one laid hands on him" again. Yet, as often as I remember this, even more often do I forget it.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Lord, have mercy on us all.

Amen

 

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent

O Lord, my God, in You I take refuge! [Psalm 7:1a].

The words of Nicodemus — "Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?" — make a point about the whole thrust of John’s Gospel. This is exactly what was attempted in the story of the adulterous woman (as we shall see on Monday). However, it is also the ongoing tension Jesus is increasingly enduring throughout the Gospel, culminating, as we know, in His unjust death.

Few of us would consciously disagree with Nicodemus about "how our law works," yet how many of us are so entrenched in it, blinded by it, that we no longer question the way we use it on others? The Gospel warns us to open our minds and hearts to the one who was killed for questioning the way the Law was being manipulated.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Guide us, O God, with Your gentle mercy.

Amen

 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Fifth Sunday of Lent

The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced [Psalm 126:3].

Today’s gospel story "turns the tables" in more ways than one.

On the surface, it is about a woman being accused, but the real accusation is leveled at Jesus for disregarding the Law of Moses; on the surface, it would appear to be a story about one woman’s adultery, but the real issue is the hypocrisy of the men in the crowd: "They said this to test Him, so that they might have some charge to bring against Him."

Jesus recognizes the "set up," and the manipulation underlying it. He turns the accusation around to the accusers by stating the now famous line: "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." In saying so, is Jesus referring to similar "secrets" which He is aware that these men may have? No; He is referring to their hypocrisy in trying to appear upright and law-abiding, while in reality hiding their real and unjust agenda behind this veneer of "concern."

How am I doing in the "truth and honesty" department? Where in the story do I find myself — among the ones giving, or receiving, "justice"? In a bit of both, I’m afraid. Knowing myself to be in "both camps," the real question becomes: How open am I to embrace Jesus’ Word, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again"?

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.[John 8:11]

 

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me [Psalm 23:4a].

The story of Daniel rescuing Susanna from death is filled with the drama and rhetorical finesse of a contemporary TV drama. Susanna’s own testimony and appeal to God was cursorily dismissed, and it took Daniel’s cry—“Are you such fools, O Israelites, as to condemn a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts?” — to save her. Similar words of Nicodemus in John’s Gospel, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” (7:51), fall on deaf ears, and Jesus’ own insistence that “I testify on My own behalf, and the Father Who sent Me testifies on My behalf,” only entrenches the religious leaders.

What is my testimony to Jesus worth? With or without drama or a hearing, is there enough to judge me?

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Guide us to walk in Your ways.

Amen

 

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to You  [Psalm 102:1].

"Who are you?” This question, posed to Jesus in today’s Gospel passage, has resounded ever since in seekers of truth all over the world. It has also come, rhetorically, from people who believed they already possessed the whole truth apart from Jesus. The question comes after Jesus has already said who He is: “I am.” This is the name God had spoken to Moses on Mount Sinai, yet it didn’t satisfy the people entrenched in their conventional ways of belief. John’s Gospel emphasizes our need to remain in Jesus as Jesus remains in God the Father; refusal to do so is to remain in sin, no matter what good we otherwise try to do.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Lord, help us to make Your name known throughout the earth.

Amen

 

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Blessed are You, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and to be praised and highly exalted forever [Daniel 3:52a].

Many of us are rightfully proud of being able to say about our heritage: “We … have never been slaves to anyone.” Others, just as proud of their heritage, do not have the luxury of saying the same thing. In either case, however, our heritage is no guarantee that we won’t “worship the golden statue that [the king has] set up.

Three friends, who found themselves in a foreign land, were good citizens but refused to worship the golden image. On their own, they might not have endured the resulting punishment, but, in praying and standing together, they not only survived — with the presence of one in “the appearance of a god,” — they changed the ways of that land. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was killed on this day in 1968, knew that this is what it means to be Church: praying, walking, and even dying together on the road to holiness.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Enlighten our minds and sanctify our hearts.

Amen

 

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

[God] is mindful of His covenant forever [Psalm 105:8a].

The Covenant and blessings God promises Abraham and his descendants must have been mind-boggling, considering the circumstances in which they were spoken. Yet, as with many who inherit much, his offspring began to take God’s “warranty” for granted, thus forgetting to “keep” their part of the Covenant alive.

Jesus reminds us what is involved in us keeping the Covenant, “whoever keeps My word will never see death.” How do we “keep” the Word of Life? So often, we tend to have keepsakes stored away so that they won’t break. But to keep the Word of Life, offered by the Keeper of promises, we must keep it close, be conscious of it, use it, and relate it to all we are and do.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) With Christ, God will surely give us all things.

Amen

 

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

In my distress I called upon the Lord…and my cry to Him reached His ears [Psalm 18:6a,6c].

Time has dulled us to the “scandal” of Jesus’ claims: Good-hearted believers (including Paul), relying on the religious institutions, were ready to stone Jesus because, “though only a human being, [You] are making Yourself God.” At the same time, many of those outside the establishment, “across the Jordan,” believed that He was from God.

Frequently, holiness is more easily recognized by the marginalized — those at the edges of society — than by the religious establishment who obviously has a lot more to lose. The “many good works from the Father” Jesus does in our midst are like a two-edged sword: Taking the “scandal ” out of them may injure us.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Lord, may Your sacrifice protect us from all harm.

Amen

 

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock [Jeremiah 31:10b].

Caiaphas seeks to preserve “the whole nation.” Being at this time little more than a minor province in the Roman Empire, “the nation” had struggled to be “whole” on and off for nine hundred years. His words sound, at one and the same time, both weighty and hollow. The Prophets had indeed spoken of God’s desire of making “them one nation in the land,” strong and peaceful for all. But Caiaphas did not have “for all” in mind; he was thinking it was better “for you,” i.e., the elite — which he himself belonged to — who still enjoyed a semblance of privilege and power.

We cannot build “God’s country,” either by ourselves or for ourselves. Our longing for it has to go through God’s reign in our hearts; our longing has to be “for all.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Almighty God, gather what we have scattered.

Amen

 

Holy Week/Palm Sunday:

Passion (Palm) Sunday

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? [Psalm 22:1a].

In a world where both brute and subtle forms of human violence are so common that they, at times, are regarded as forms of entertainment, today’s words from Isaiah sound strange. Here is someone who doesn’t fight for himself or insist on his rights. Such a stance receives no respect in a cultural climate where many only have one consuming passion: to exploit any and all economic opportunities and/or political possibilities. At the same time, however, it has also become an accepted — albeit not ideal — “fact of reality” that many people are being used, impoverished, and exploited in the process.

It is in this “fact of reality” that Paul proclaims that “Christ Jesus, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” Rather than exploiting His status, power, and privilege, Jesus gave it all up for us. And Paul goes on to say that Jesus “became obedient to the point of death” — a death reserved for terrorists and criminals.

And here is the great paradox: Christ Jesus would only know of one “exploit” — the exploit of God’s self-emptying love whose strength lives in being given away in powerlessness!

This is the Spirit and all-consuming passion of Jesus. This Spirit lives on today in us, not just because of what Jesus did out of love for us, but also because of Who He is. This Spirit gives us the power to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Let us “exploit” this grace with passion!

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Hosanna to the Son of David! [Matthew 21:9]

 

Monday of Holy Week

The Lord is my light and my salvation [Psalm 27:1a].

This Gospel passage challenges each of us to ask ourselves about the amount of generosity that undergirds our religious fervor. Are we “wasteful” like Mary or “reasonable” like Judas? Both of them, unlike the other followers closest to Jesus, had a keen sense of where “things were headed” for Him, but they certainly made very different decisions based on this insight. None of us would want to be identified with Judas, but I’m afraid there is some of him in most of us — wanting to find fault, making rationalized and “reasonable ” judgments of others, etc. Are we, however, any more interested in being likened to Mary, who, unmoved by the preconceived notions of others, did what her heart commanded her in the presence of everyone?

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) You Who were pierced by the soldier’s lance, heal our wounds.

Amen

 

Tuesday of Holy Week

My mouth will tell of Your deeds of salvation [Psalm 71:15a].

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John indicates that Jesus was glorified the very moment Judas left the upper room: “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in Him.” What John is telling us is that the wonderful work of God on the Cross is of one piece with the wonderful works of God in the Resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit. The Church calls this, as a whole, the “Paschal Mystery.” All that we do in prayer and liturgy this week exist to bring us to the mystery of new life in Christ, the foretaste of which we already know and celebrate in His Passover, His passage from this world to the Father: We celebrate Pasch … Easter!

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Sanctify the world, redeemed by Your Blood.

Amen

 

Wednesday of Holy Week

O God, in the abundance of Your steadfast love, answer me [Psalm 69:13b].

Unjust suffering is never justifiable, and we rightly react to it when we encounter it, whether it is imposed on others or in our own lives. This is not the same as the self-pitying feeling of, “It just isn’t fair, ” when life presents us with a dilemma we’d rather evade. Whatever the reason for our suffering, in what ways are we able to face it?

Our faith encourages us to meet it with the inner strength that comes from living in the presence of God every day: “Morning by morning He wakens — wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught … It is the Lord God Who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” Our ability to love in the midst of suffering is what makes us followers of Christ, the suffering servant.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. [Matthew 20:28]

 

Thursday of Holy Week

Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ [see 1Corinthians 10:16].

Tonight we consider the last meal Jesus shared with His disciples. It was a Passover meal, a family meal the Jews celebrate in their home, commemorating the passage from slavery to freedom in the Exodus. It is a celebration of the beginnings of community in that all are to be treated as family, including servants and strangers. Passover celebrates the Covenant of this community — of being chosen and bonded together by God in order to prepare and live life as a passage from death to life. In this remembrance, the power of God’s salvation is brought into the present moment. Little wonder we have come to call what Jesus did at this meal “Holy Communion”!

Jesus immerses Himself deeper in His Passion by saying of the Passover bread: “This is My Body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” Then He gets up, only to get down on His knees, and shocks everyone by washing their dirty feet. In this ritual and example of service, Jesus turns all sense of power and decorum upside down, making our propensity for wanting to be served, to dominate others, insisting on our rights and dignity, both comical and ridiculous. There is only one way for the community to become holy: By offering our own body and blood in the service of love, we become Eucharist. It is to all of us that Jesus poses His question: “Do you know what I have done to you?

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) This is My Body that is for you. [1Corinthians 11:24]

 

cruxglow.gif (14852 bytes) Good Friday, The Passion of Our Lord

 

Father, I put My life in Your hands [see Luke 23:46].

Yesterday we celebrated the institution of the Eucharist. We have been taught and believe that, through the Eucharist, Jesus’ sacrifice is always present among us. Today we stand under the Cross with His mother and the disciple whom He loved and watch the Church — the Eucharistic community — flow from His pierced heart.

 

"We Love Jesus Christ in His Church, because She is His Immaculate Spouse, Who came out of His Opened Side on the Cross, just as Eve came out of the first Adam"

Saint Eugene de Mazenod

 

Pentecost is Traditionally considered to be the Birthday-of the Church, which is Christ's One (1) and only Bride. However, the above Quote by Saint Eugene-de-Mazenod sheds additional Light on the Subject. Actually, the Birth of the Church Commenced on Good Friday, when the Side (Heart) of Jesus was Pierced with a Lance, and Water and Blood Flowed-Forth for the Salvation of all Mankind. This Concept is Eloquently Explained below by the Great Doctor-of-the-Church, Saint John Chrysostom. The Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Soul of the Church, Fifty (50) days after Easter, on the Feast-of Pentecost, Concluded the Birth (Fashioning) of Christ's Immaculate Spouse, the Church.

 

Birth of Eve,
the Bride of Adam,
from Adam's side

Birth of the Church,
the Bride of Christ,
from Christ's Side

"Water and Blood Symbolized Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. From these Two (2) Sacraments the Church is Born: from Baptism, the Cleansing Water that gives Rebirth and Renewal from the Holy Spirit, and from the Holy Eucharist. Since the Symbols of Baptism and the Eucharist flowed from His Side, it was from His Side that Christ 'Fashioned' the Church, as He had 'Fashioned' Eve from the side of Adam".

Saint John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church

 

It is an ancient theological principle that the Eucharist “makes” the Church. When Jesus changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood, He not only said “receive,” but also “do this in memory of Me.” The Church is not just a magnificent structure or an institution we have received from our forbearers; it is the community of those who become bread and wine for the life of the world. We can only “do” and be Church in the shadow of the Cross. The Eucharist is the Sacrifice of the Cross in our midst: This is where, more than anywhere else, it has been manifested what God’s overwhelming love has done for us and what we are called to do for others — this is where the cup of the new Covenant is poured. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized’” (Mark 10:39).

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. [1Peter 2:21]

 

Holy Saturday, the Vigil of Easter

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

One of the most beautiful and soothing moments of any liturgy happens tonight when the presider sums up the entire celebration of the Triduum by singing the message of Easter: “Go in the peace of Christ, alleluia, alleluia!”, and we all respond: “Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia!

When this proclamation of peace rings out through clouds of incense, burning candles, and the bland darkness outside, it is a proclamation of both memory and hope. It is remembrance of the “happy fault of Adam” which leads us to hopeful exultation of the Cross and the Resurrection — our deliverance from sin and final death — and of awaiting ultimate and total redemption in Christ.

Saint Augustine emphasized the importance of singing the alleluia not only this night and tomorrow, but every day throughout the fifty days of Easter, because “alleluia” is the song we will be singing in the “Heavenly Liturgy.” It is a song to the Lamb Who was slain, the Prince of Peace, Who “came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near .… So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:17,19).

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Go in the peace of Christ, alleluia, alleluia!

 

Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of Our Lord

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it [Psalm 118:24].

TV has made us so accustomed to reruns that we tend to see many others aspects of life in this way. Tragically, this can lead us to think that life itself is repeatable, including the great event we celebrate this morning. Is this Easter Sunday morning liturgy “more” than a commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ? What is the sense with which we celebrate the beginning of new and everlasting life?

Saint Augustine wrote: “On Easter Sunday, we say, ‘This day the Lord rose from the dead,’ although so many years have passed since His Resurrection, although it really took place long before, it is on that day sacramentally celebrated. Was not Christ once and for all offered up in His own Person as a sacrifice? And yet, is He not likewise offered up in the Sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations?

To celebrate Easter is to profess that Christ’s Resurrection happened once and is still happening to us. Even though we are all going to die, we can rejoice that “death is no more,” because Christ made it a passage — a Passover — for us whereby we partake in His eternal life in God. The One Who is in eternity came to be in time with us and to redeem human time for us by showing us that eternity is a presence of “pure now,” full of truth and love! To the one who believes in Christ, eternity is! “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega. All time belongs to Him, and all the ages.” How can we help from singing, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Life is unique. There are no reruns!

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Live in the peace of Christ, alleluia, alleluia!

Amen