Friday, March 24, 2017

Oscar Romero, martyred this day in 1980

├ôscar Romero (1917–1980) became Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977.  

Though theologically conservative, he became an outspoken critic of the way the state and military supported the privileged, the wealthy and the powerful while the majority of the people remained in abject poverty. He spoke up on behalf of the poor who were being slaughtered by government backed death squads. 

Romero himself was assassinated on this day, March 24, 1980 while saying Mass in a small hospital chapel. He was killed by a single rifle bullet, his blood pouring out upon the altar. 

In 1997 Romero’s cause for beatification and canonisation was opened, and Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. The canonisation process continues. Romero was declared a Martyr by Pope Francis on 3 February 2015, paving the way for his beatification, which took place on 23 May 2015. Oscar Romero is honoured by other Christians, notably the Church of England which commemorates him in its Calendar. He is also one of the ten 20th century martyrs who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, unveiled in July 1988. 

Here are some of his sayings from The Violence of Love, which can be downloaded as a pdf book HERE

I cry out against injustice,
but only to say to the unjust:
Be converted!
I cry out in the name of suffering,
of those who suffer injustice,
but only to say to the criminals:
Be converted!
Do not be wicked!
(December 1, 1977)

* * * * *

We human beings cannot produce our land’s liberation.
We Salvadorans are unable to save our country
with our own human powers.
But if we hope for a liberation to come from Christ,
the Redeemer,
then we can.
This is the church’s hope.
This is why I preach much faith in Christ.
He died to pay for all injustices
and rose to bury in his tomb all evil
and become the redemption of all those who suffer.
He is hope and eternal life.
(December 1, 1977)

* * * * *

A religion of Sunday Mass but of unjust weeks
does not please the Lord.
A religion of much praying but with hypocrisy in the heart
is not Christian.
A church that sets itself up only to be well off,
to have a lot of money and comfort,
but that forgets to protest injustices,
would not be the true church of our divine Redeemer.
(December 4, 1977)

* * * * *

This is the sermon given at a service in Westminster Abbey to mark the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero, 28 March 2010 by then Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams, 

Sentir con la Iglesia: ‘feeling with the Church’.  This was Oscar Romero’s motto as a bishop – you’ll see it in many photographs inscribed on the episcopal mitre he wore.  It is in fact an ancient phrase, very often used to express the ideal state of mind for a loyal Catholic Christian; indeed, it’s usually been translated as ‘thinking with the Church’.  It can be used and has been used simply to mean having the same sentiments as the Church’s teaching authority.

But the life and death of Monse├▒or Romero take us to a far deeper level of meaning.  Here was a man who was by no means a temperamental revolutionary ...

Today's readings and meditation

FIRST READING (Hosea 14:1-9)
Thus says the Lord: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, ‘Take away all iniquity; accept that which is good and we will render the fruit of our lips. Assyria shall not save us, we will not ride upon horses; and we will say no more, “Our God,” to the work of our hands. In thee the orphan finds mercy.’

“I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be as the dew to Israel; he shall blossom as the lily, he shall strike root as the poplar; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon.

“They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom as the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

“O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit.

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.”

GOSPEL (Mark 12:28b-34)
One of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is, `Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, `You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any question.

Love and obedience go together  Servants of the Word

An over-simplification? Creighton University
The Most Important Teaching - Orthodox Church of the Mother of God

If we are to understand the meaning of the scribe’s question and Jesus’ response, we need to bear in mind the following. In the Judaism of Jesus’ time there were two opposite tendencies.

On the one hand there was a tendency to endlessly multiply the commandments and precepts of the law, creating norms and obligations for every minimal detail of life. On the other hand there was the desire to look underneath this suffocating congeries of norms to find those things that really count for God, the spirit of all the commandments.

The scribe’s question and Jesus’ response are situated in this approach to the essentials of the law, in this desire not to get lost in the thousand other secondary precepts. It is precisely this lesson about method that above all we must learn from today’s gospel. There are things in life that are important but not urgent (in the sense that nothing will happen if we let them slide); and vice versa, there are things that are urgent but not important. The danger is that we will systematically sacrifice the important things to pursue those that are urgent but often secondary.

How do we avoid this danger? A story will help us understand how. One day an old professor was asked to speak as an expert to some large North American corporations on personal time management. He decided to try an experiment. Standing before a group ready to take notes, he pulled out from under the table a large, empty glass vase. He placed a dozen tennis-ball-size rocks in the vase until it was full. When he was not able to add more rocks he asked those present: “Does the vase seem full to you?” and they all answered “Yes!” He waited a moment and then asked: “Are you sure?”

He again bent down and pulled a box full of pebbles from under the table and carefully poured the pebbles into the vase, moving the vase a little so that the pebbles could reach the rocks at the very bottom. He asked: “Is the vase full this time?”

His audience, having become more prudent, began to understand and said: “Perhaps not yet.” “Very good!” the old professor replied. Again he bent down and this time picked up a bag of sand and poured it into the vase with care. The sand filled all the spaces between the rocks and the pebbles.

He then asked again: “Is the vase full now?” And they all answered without hesitation: “No!” “Indeed,” the old professor said and, as they expected, took the pitcher of water from the table and poured it into the vase up to the brim.

At this point he looked up at his audience and asked: “What great truth does this experiment show us?” The bravest of the group, reflecting on the theme of the course - time management - replied: “This shows us that even when our schedule is full, with a little effort we can always add some other task, some other thing to do.”

“No,” the professor answered, “It’s not that. The experiment shows us something else. If you don’t put the big rocks in the vase first, then you will never be able to put them in afterward.”

There was a moment of silence and everyone took in the evidence for this affirmation.

The professor continued: “What are the big rocks, the priorities, in your life? Health? Family? Friends? Defending a cause? Accomplishing something that is close to your heart?

“The important thing is to put these big rocks on your agenda first. If you give priority to a thousand other little things - the pebbles, the sand - your life will be filled with meaninglessness and you will never find time to dedicate yourself to the truly important things.

“So, never forget to pose this question to yourself: ‘What are the important things in my life?’ Put these things at the head of your agenda.”

Then, with a friendly gesture the old professor bid farewell to his audience and left the room.

To the “big rocks” mentioned by the professor - health, family, friends - we need to add two others, which are the biggest of all, the two greatest commandments: love God and your neighbour.

PRAYER - William Booth (1829-1912)
Look, O Christ,
upon our sin-stained consciences,
and cleanse them with thy precious blood.
Look upon our divided hearts,
and heal them by thy redeeming grace.
Look upon our languid spirits;
kindle in them he fire of thy perfect love;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Today's readings and reflection

FIRST READING  (Jeremiah 7:23-28)
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "This command I gave them, 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.'

"But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me, or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.

"So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. And you shall say to them, 'This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.'"

GOSPEL  (Luke 11:14-23)
At that time: Jesus was casting out a demon that was dumb; when the demon had gone out, the dumb man spoke, and the people marvelled. But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Be-elzebul, the prince of demons"; while others, to test him, sought from him a sign from heaven.

But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Be-elzebul. And if I cast out demons by Be-elzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted, and divides his spoil. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters."

God's kingdom has come upon you - Servants of the Word

Helping the stronger man win - A Catholic moment 

Commitment to Jesus a way of life - From the Carmelite Friary, Kinsale:
In today’s reading from the Prophet Jeremiah, God tells us what commands he had given the people. The people, however, have abandoned the Lord and his commands. It is a reminder to us not to harden our hearts to God but to always be receptive to his ways no matter where they lead us or what they may ask of us. In the Gospel some of the people are afraid of Jesus and believe that he can cast out devils because he is one himself. He tells them that this is not the case because the kingdom would soon die if that were so. He goes on to tell them that if they are not for him then they are against him. We know that being for Jesus is not just something we say but is a complete way of life and one which we cannot shy away from because when we refuse to make the commitment to live this way of life then, at that moment, we put up a barrier to closer union with God.

Greek Orthodox Priest Aris Metrakos, formerly a ship's captain, maintains that 85% of all churches can be compared to luxury cruise liners, when they should be more like battleships: Cruise ships and battleships. What could be more simple and clear? Think about what happens on a cruise ship. We don't do any work. Someone takes care of every need. Every event (except for lifeboat training) is optional. We have no responsibilities and no accountability.

Isn't this the way most people approach Church? Developing and executing services and programs is someone else's job. We go to services once or twice a year and still call ourselves "members." All work falls under the job description of the paid staff or core volunteers, so we have no responsibilities.

Then there's the battleship. The warship has a life or death mission. Every member of the crew has a job that must be done to the best of his ability. Everyone must work together because they depend on one another for the success of the mission and mutual survival.

A healthy parish must see itself as a battleship. The mission of the Church is life and death. We are called to bring the Gospel to the world and to provide for those in need. No other vocation is as critical or crucial. Each member of the "crew" has a divine calling to define and fill his particular niche in the life of the parish. And when members do not work together, they jeopardize both the work of the Church and their salvation.

Anyone who has spent time aboard a cruise ship and a warship knows that the ways of life onboard the two respective vessels are polar opposites. Cruise ship passengers are relaxed, tanned, and well-fed. Battleship sailors are sleep-deprived, present a neglected appearance, and are edgy. No one in his right mind would vacation on a battleship.

But the life of the Church isn't a vacation. It's life and death combat with the evil one. And just like the cruise ship passenger that can't fit into his clothes after three nights and four days of gluttony, "members" of cruise ship churches are unfit for spiritual warfare.

PRAYER - (E.B. Pusey)
God, give us grace, so to lay to heart our ways, 
that we may weary of all which is not His, from Him, to Him: 
and may, through Him, the Living Way, 
by new love and obedience, attain to Him, 
Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, 
is the End of our being, 
the Fulness of bliss of all creation, 
“the Eternal Infinite Truth, 
the origin, fountain, measure, end, and cause of all created truth,” 
the ever-blessed, beatific Life; 
to which He, of His mercy, bring us sinners, 
to Whom be all glory and thanksgiving and adoration and praise, 
for ever and ever. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Today's readings and reflection

FIRST READING (Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9)
Moses spoke to the people, saying: “And now, O Israel, give heed to the statutes and the ordinances which I teach you, and do them; that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, gives you.

“Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, `Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’

“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day?

“Only take heed, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.”

GOSPEL (Matthew 5:17-19)
Jesus said to his disciples, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

“Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

The transforming work of the Holy Spirit - Servants of the Word

Jesus and Law & Order Fr Carmen Mele, O.P.

God's Word permeating our lives - St John's Cathedral Milwauke 

You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves, and tell your children and grandchildren as well. (Deuteronomy 4:9)

Our God is a faithful and loving God. A God whose covenant “I will be your God and you will be my people” remains intact, even when Israel didn’t remain all that faithful.

As a parent, I have unconditional love for my children. God Is love, agape (1 John 4:8), pure self gift. Self gift in giving His Son Jesus to be crucified and die on a cross for my redemption and yours. How could I not want to know, love and serve God!

Staying in this intimate relationship, not rupturing it requires obedience. Jesus says in Mt. 5: 17-19 he has not come to “remove (the Law), but to fulfill them”. He invites me to go deeper into their meaning, He challenges me to transformation, to find freedom and peace, through loving obedience and discipleship.
- Mary Bruesch

“The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invinsible companionship of God.”
- Thomas Merton

PRAYER (Attributed to Pope Clement XI (1670-1676)
Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith. 
I trust in you: strengthen my trust. 
I love you: let me love you more and more. 
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.

I worship you as my first beginning. 
I long for you as my last end. 
I praise you as my constant helper, 
and call on you as my loving protector.

Guide me by your wisdom, 
correct me with your justice, 
comfort me with your mercy, 
protect me with your power.

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: 
to be fixed on you; my words: 
to have you for their theme; 
my actions: to reflect my love for you; 
my sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

I want to do what you ask of me: 
in the way that you ask, 
for as long as you ask, 
because you ask it.

Lord, enlighten my understanding, 
strengthen my will, 
purify my heart, 
and make me holy.

Help me to repent of my past sins, 
and to resist temptation in the future. 
Help me to rise above my human weakness 
and to grow stronger as a Christian.

Let me love you, my Lord and my God, 
and see myself as I really am: 
a pilgrim in this world, 
a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch, 
those in authority over me 
or those under my authority, 
my friends and my enemies.

Help me to conquer anger by gentleness, 
greed by generosity, 
apathy by fervor. 
Help me to forget myself and reach out toward others.

Make me prudent in planning, 
courageous in taking risks. 
Make me patient in suffering, 
unassuming in prosperity.

Keep me, Lord, attentive in prayer, 
temperate in food and drink, 
diligent in my work, 
firm in my good intentions.

Let my conscience be clear, 
my conduct without fault, 
my speech blameless, 
my life well-ordered.

Put me on guard against my human weaknesses. 
Let me cherish your love for me, 
keep your law, 
and come at last to your salvation. 

Teach me to realize that this world is passing, 
that my true future is the happiness of heaven, 
that life on earth is short, 
and the life to come eternal.

Help me to prepare for death 
with a proper fear of judgment, 
but a greater trust in your goodness. 
Lead me safely through death 
to the endless joy of heaven. 
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Today's readings and meditation

FIRST READING (Daniel 3:2, 11-20)
Azariah stood and offered this prayer; in the midst of the fire he opened his mouth and said:

“For thy name’s sake do not give us up utterly, and do not break thy covenant, and do not withdraw thy mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham thy beloved and for the sake of Isaac thy servant and Israel thy holy one, to whom thou didst promise to make their descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the shore of the sea.

“For we, O Lord, have become fewer than any nation, and are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins. And at this time there is no prince, or prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, no place to make an offering before thee or to find mercy.

“Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted, as though it were with burnt offerings of rams and bulls, and with tens of thousands of fat lambs; such may our sacrifice be in thy sight this day, and may we wholly follow thee, for there will be no shame for those who trust in thee.

“And now with all our heart we follow thee, we fear thee and seek thy face. Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in thy forbearance and in thy abundant mercy. Deliver us in accordance with thy marvelous works, and give glory to thy name, O Lord!

GOSPEL (Matthew 18:21-35)
Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

“But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, `Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt.

“When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.

“Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt.

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

How often shall I forgive? - Servants of the Word

A miracle of God's grace, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 29th December, 2008: 
The family of a teenager stabbed to death at a Sydney railway station have gathered for the much-loved youth’s funeral, saying they forgive his killer.

Andrew Motuliki, 17, was stabbed in the chest with a large fishing knife allegedly after a fight broke out between two groups of teenagers on a train at Campsie station, in Sydney’s south-west, on December 21.

Passengers on the train tried to give the Marrickville teenager first aid but he was pronounced dead on arrival at St George Hospital.

A 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been charged with his murder, as well as affray and custody of a knife in a public place.

He was refused bail in Parramatta Children’s Court the day after the stabbing death.

“This boy who did this to my son, I forgive you,” Andrew’s father Etikailahi Motuliki told the Ten Network.

“Pray to God, pray for forgiveness.”

His mother, Ane Motuliki, echoed the words of forgiveness, happy for the murder-accused to be dealt with by the courts, saying: “(I) leave up to whoever (to) deal with him”.

Shortly after the killing, the Motulikis made a tearful public plea for people not to carry knives.

“I would like to appeal to kids everywhere not to carry knives,” Mr Motuliki said the day after his son’s death.

“They need to find out another way to solve their problems.”

Following Monday’s funeral, family and friends gathered at the scene of the stabbing, singing and praying for Andrew who was killed on his way to church just days before Christmas. 

[...] at the demarcation line between the trials of fire and the beguilement of old habits, stands this absolute condition which God never relaxes: as you forgive, the measure which you use will be used for you; and as you forgive, you will be forgiven; what you do not forgive will be held against you. It is not that God does not want to forgive, but if we come unforgiving, we check the mystery of love, we refuse it and there is no place for us in the kingdom. We cannot go farther if we are not forgiven, and we cannot be forgiven as long as we have not forgiven everyone of those who have wronged us. This is quite sharp and real and precise and no one has any right to imagine that he is in the kingdom of God, that he belongs to it, if there is still unforgiveness in his heart. To forgive one’s enemies is the first, the most elementary characteristic of a christian; failing this, we are not yet christian at all, but are still wandering in the scorching desert of Sinai.

But to forgive is something extremely difficult to achieve. To grant forgiveness at a moment of softening of the heart, in an emotional crisis is comparatively easy; not to take it back is something that hardly anyone knows how to do. What we call forgiveness is often putting the other one on probation, nothing more; and lucky are the forgiven people if it is only probation and not remand. We wait impatiently for evidence of repentance, we want to be sure that the penitent is not the same any more, but this situation can last a lifetime and our attitude is exactly the contrary of everything which the gospel teaches, and indeed commands us, to do. So the law of forgiveness is not a little brook on the boundary between slavery and freedom: it has breadth and depth, it is the Red Sea. The Jews did not get over it by their own effort in man-made boats, the Red Sea was cut open by the power of God; God had to lead them across. But to be led by God one must commune with this quality of God which is the ability to forgive. God remembers, in the sense that, once we have done wrong, he will for ever, until we change, take into account that we are weak and frail; but he will never remember in terms of accusation or condemnation; it will never be brought up against us. The Lord will yoke himself together with us, into our lives, and he will have more weight to carry, he will have a heavier cross, a new ascent to Calvary which we are unwilling or incapable of undertaking.

[...] But to be able to say ‘Forgive as I forgive’ is [...] one of the greatest problems of life. Thus, if you are not prepared to leave behind you every resentment that you have against those who were your overlords or slave drivers, you cannot cross. If you are capable of forgiving, that is of leaving behind in the land of slavery, all your slavish mentality, all your greed and grasping and bitterness, you can cross. After that you are in the scorching wilderness, because it will take time for a free man to be made out of a slave.

All that we possessed as slaves in the land of Egypt we are deprived of - no roof, no shelter, no food, nothing but the wilderness and God. Earth is no longer capable of feeding us; we can no longer rely on natural food, so we pray ‘give us day by day our daily bread’. God gives it even when we go astray, because if he did not we should die before we could reach the border of the promised land. Keep us alive, O God, give us time to err, to repent, to take the right course.
From Living Prayer (Templegate, 1966), pp. 30-32, by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

Dear Lord, help me to forgive 
when everything inside me tells me not to. 
Help me let go 
when my heart is so wounded that I feel it’s breaking. 
Open my eyes to things that can heal me, 
things that can comfort me and make me stronger. 
Hold my hand and let me cry on your shoulder. 
Take me to places I’ve never been, 
let me stand on the highest mountain, 
so I can see how foolish I am 
for clinging to my anger. 
Show me a glimpse of your greatness, 
so that I can make it my treasure 
when everything else seems to crumble around me.

Help me to make the best 
of all the painful circumstances in my life; 
help me to love the people who hurt me 
as you love us all, 
even though we grieve you every day 
by our words, thoughts and actions. 
Give me the wisdom to see beyond this moment, 
to understand and accept 
the deepest motivations that make people hurt each other. 
Give me the inner strength to heal and not to break, 
to comfort and not to destroy, 
to repay good for evil and love for hatred.

And make my faith stronger, 
so that I can cope with moments like this in the future, 
turning every experience into a well, 
from which I can draw drops of strength and wisdom. 
Take me deeper into your love, 
which changes dust and mud into gold 
and makes everything worthwhile. 
For you are the only help I’ve got 
and in you I put all my trust now and forever.
(Adapted from HERE)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Today's readings and reflection

(Today is the Solemnity of St Joseph, transferred from yesterday so as not to disturb the sequence of Sundays.)

FIRST READING (2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16)
The word of the Lord came to Nathan, "Go and tell my servant David, "When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.'"

SECOND READING (Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22)
The promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants - not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all, as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations" - in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told, "So shall your descendants be."

That is why his faith was "reckoned to him as righteousness.”

GOSPEL  (Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a)
Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

When Joseph woke from sleep, hedid as the angel of the Lord commanded him.

Obeying the Lord in everything - Servants of the Word

St Joseph the Carpenter - Coptic Orthodox essay

The Importance of "hidden" St Joseph - Pope Benedict XVI

There is a general rule concerning all special graces granted to any human being. Whenever the divine favour chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand. This general rule is especially verified in the case of Saint Joseph, the foster-father of our Lord, and the husband of the Queen of our world, enthroned above the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph's wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying "Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord." Remember us, Saint Joseph, and plead for us to your foster child. Ask your most holy bride, the Virgin Mary, to look kindly upon us, since she is the mother of him who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns eternally. Amen.

What emanates from the figure of Saint Joseph is faith. Joseph of Nazareth is a "just man" because he totally "lives by faith." He is holy because his faith is truly heroic. Sacred Scripture says little of him. It does not record even one word spoken by Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth. And yet, even without words, he shows the depth of his faith, his greatness. Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit. He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words, but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God. He listens in silence. And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth contained in the word of the Living God. We see how the word of the Living God penetrates deeply into the soul of that man, that just man. And we, do we know how to listen to the word of God? Do we know how to absorb it into the depths of our human personalities? Do we open our conscience in the presence of this word?

O God,
who from the family of thy servant David
didst raise up Joseph
to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son
and the spouse of his virgin mother:
Grant us, we beseech thee,
grace to imitate his uprightness of life
and his obedience to thy commands;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee
in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
one God, world without end.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Today's readings and reflection

FIRST READING  (Exodus 17:3-7)
The people thirsted for water, and they murmured against Moses, and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" 

So Moses cried to the Lord, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me."

And the Lord said to Moses, "Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink." 

And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel, and because they put the Lord to the proof by saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

SECOND READING  (Romans 5:1-2, 5-8)
Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man--though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

GOSPEL (John 4:5-42)
Jesus came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there. 

So Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 

For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 

The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 

 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." 

The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" 

Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." 

The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." 

Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." 

The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." 

The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." 

The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." 

Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." 

Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, "What do you wish?" or, "Why are you talking with her?" 

So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" They went out of the city and were coming to him. 

Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." So the disciples said to one another, "Has any one brought him food?" 

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour." 

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world."

A spring of water welling up to eternal life Word of Life Community

A look at today's Gospel Reading - Coptic Orthodox reflection

Spiritual thirst and the Holy Spirit - Pastor Rick Warren  

FURTHERMORE . . . (by 
Msgr. Joseph Prior)
Water is necessary for life. While we know this from our intellect we also sense it experientially when we go without water for a period. In the initial period we may say that we are “thirsty.” Our body tells us that we need water. We can feel the need as we long for water.
Going without for a longer period of time we begin to get dehydrated. When this happens all sorts of things start to occur in the body – we can get faint or lightheaded, lethargy sets in, we might even get disoriented. The urgent need for water will be noticed as the body then begins to shut down – and eventually, without water, we will die.
The Israelites were keenly aware of this as they journeyed in the desert. It’s not that easy to find water in the desert. Such was the case when they were at “Meribah and Massah.” They are thirsty. So they grumble against the Lord: “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?” Wow. That is some pretty serious grumbling. Remember they were slaves while in Egypt; the Egyptians were working them to death, and murdering all their new born males.
In their thirst, they forgot the Lord’s goodness to them and his power to save. The Lord is not happy with this grumbling but provides, once again, for his people. Their thirst, at least their physical thirst, is quenched and they are saved.
The Gospel passage for Sunday’s liturgy is Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well of Jacob. Jesus was thirsty. He had been walking all morning when he arrived at about noon in Sychar, a Samaritan town. It is here that Jesus encounters and interacts with the “woman at the well.”
In the encounter we see a wonderful interplay between thirst and satisfaction, between water and spirit. Jesus is thirsty for water, the Samaritan woman thirsty for spirit. She can provide the water, he can provide the Spirit. As the interchange develops we see clearly that the need for “living water” is much more significant and important than regular water.
Jesus says to the woman: “Everyone who drinks this water [from the well] will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The offer of “living water” can only be made because Jesus has come on a mission from the Father. The mission is that of mercy and healing through sacrifice.
When the disciples returned to find Jesus at the well with the woman, they urge Jesus to eat. Jesus responds to them: “I have food to eat which you do not know…. My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.”
The living water that Jesus promises is poured out from the cross. Recall that after Jesus dies but is still hanging on the cross, the soldiers came and one of them “thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” The water signifies the “living water” that Jesus provides through his passion and death. The resurrection will witness to its power to give eternal life.
Lent helps prepare us for the Triduum and Easter in which we remember the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord and our participation in the life he affords us. Participation in the liturgies of the Triduum draws us into the paschal mystery we celebrate.
A major part of these celebrations happen at the Easter Vigil when adults are fully initiated into the life Christ won for us. They are immersed in the “living waters” of baptism and the gift of the Spirit is poured out upon them. At the Easter liturgies, all the baptized are reminded of their own baptism through the renewal of vows and the sprinkling of water.
The celebration of Easter is the celebration of life, the eternal life that has been made possible for us through Christ Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. These are the “living waters” that provide for our thirst, the thirst for life.

PRAYER  (John van de Laar)
In the dry wildernesses of our lives,
in the days of heat and thirst,
you offer us living water,
Thank you, gracious and generous God.

When we begin to doubt your presence,
and grumble that your love is unreliable,
you offer us living water,
Thank you, gracious and generous God.

When life’s regrets and the bad choices we have made
leave us feeling excluded and unworthy,
you offer us living water,
Thank you, gracious and generous God.

When circumstances, or the inhumanity of others,
have left us alone and wounded,
you offer us living water,
Thank you, gracious and generous God.

We thank you and praise you, O God,
that how ever we may thirst,
what ever we may need to satisfy our souls,
you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ;
So we drink deep of the living water
and, as we draw from your wells,
we seek to pass the cup to others
who, like us, are thirsty for your grace.