Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wednesday of Holy Week

The Leaflet is now HERE.

FIRST READING (Isaiah 50:4-9a)
Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be smitten, that you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they are not pressed out, or bound up, or softened with oil. Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by aliens. And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom.

GOSPEL (Matthew 26:14-25)
O one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?"

And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.

And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.'" And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover.

When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so."

More on the betrayal
(Word of Life Community)

How do we prepare to celebrate the days ahead?
(Presentation Ministries)

Yesterday and today, the Church has forced us to consider Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Surely one reason for this is to help us recognize the Judas we have within and repent.

Jesus loved Judas. Even when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, Jesus called Judas his friend (Mt 26:50). At the Last Supper, Jesus gave Judas the select morsel of food (John 13:26). Nor did Jesus embarrass Judas when he announced that one of the apostles would betray him, for when Judas left the Last Supper, some of the other apostles thought Judas was going to "buy what was needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor" (Jn 13:29). Jesus loved Judas so much that he had obviously not drawn attention to his stealing from the common purse (Jn 12:6).

Jesus loves each one of us with tenderness and mercy. He sees the Judas in us, convicts us of our sins, and calls us to repentance so that we will receive his mercy and love. Jesus loved Judas, but Judas pushed his love away. Jesus loves each of us. Will we allow ourselves to be drawn deeply into his love, or, as with Judas, will his death for us be in vain?

O Gracious Father,
we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church;
that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where in any thing it is amiss, reform it.
Where it is right, establish it;
where it is in want, provide for it;
where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of him who died and rose again,
and ever liveth to make intercession for us,
Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.
Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645)

Tuesday of Holy Week

FIRST READING (Isaiah 49:1-6)

Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.

And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified."

But I said, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God."

And now the Lord says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honoured in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength - he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

GOSPEL (John 13:21-33, 36-38)

When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me."

The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.

One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks."

So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, "Lord, who is it?"

Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it."

So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come.'

Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?"

Jesus answered, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward."

Peter said to him, "Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."

Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times."

(Word of Life Community)

(Presentation Ministries)

(Archbishop William Goh) 


We cannot reflect on the passion, the suffering of Jesus, or the meaning of the Cross without bumping into Judas. We would rather not - but he's unavoidable. He is at the heart of the story: Judas the betrayer, Judas the enigma. The Lord chose him, along with the other eleven disciples, after spending a whole night in prayer. Judas lived and travelled with Jesus and the other eleven every day for three years, hearing all that amazing teaching, and witnessing Jesus' miracles of love. He was there in the upper room when Jesus washed their feet - HIS feet! Jesus loved Judas without reservation. After all of this, Judas betrayed Jesus.

This was in fulfilment of Scripture. Jesus quotes Psalm 41:9. David, the Psalmist, had a lot of people who hated him and throughout his life he experienced many hardships. But in verse 9 he says "even my close friend, the one I trusted and shared my bread with has lifted up his heel against me." This is the deepest pain of all. Not just an enemy but a close and trusted friend.

There are many dimensions to the story of Judas. There are many mysteries too. But one thing is clear, and certainly not trivial. Betrayal is a massive part of the human experience, undoubtedly the ugliest aspect of human relationships. Sooner or later we all experience it. Jesus is our great High Priest, "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" - ALL the infirmities a broken sin-sick world can throw at us - including the pain of betrayal.

My Father, I abandon myself to you.
Do with me as you will.
Whatever you may do with me I thank you.
I am prepared for anything.
I accept everything,
provided your will is fulfilled in me
and in all creatures.
I ask for nothing more, my God.
I place my soul in your hands.
I give it to you, my God,
with all the love of my heart,
because I love you.
And for me it is a necessity of love,
this gift of myself,
this placing of myself in your hands
without reserve in boundless confidence,
because you are my Father.
Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday of Holy Week

FIRST READING (Isaiah 42:1-7)
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations.

"He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. "

Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: "I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness."

GOSPEL (John 12:1-11)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him.

Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"

This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.

Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

Extravagant love for Jesus
(Word of Life Community)

Worship shouldn't depend on the opinions of others
(Rachel Denning)


"Before the triumphal procession moved towards Jerusalem, Jesus stopped at the home of His friend Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. There were two persons at the supper that distinguished themselves by their behaviour: Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and Judas, the disciple of Jesus, whose surname was Iscariot.

"Mary, sensing somehow that the earthly ministry of Jesus was drawing to a close, takes a pound of pure and expensive alabaster and anoints the feet of Christ, wiping them with her hair. The house was soon permeated by the sweet fragrance of the alabaster.

"Judas, however, always acutely conscious of the monetary value of everything, censured the pious act of Mary, charging her with the wanton waste of that which 'might have been sold for much, and given to the poor' (Matthew 26:9). We then see Jesus in His role as Defender of the poor and the oppressed. Chrysostom remarks that the piety of Judas here is certainly hypocritical, as is his condemnation of Mary.

“St. Paul tells us that Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. (II Corinthians 11:14). Judas is unsuccessful at hiding his real motive; he would have liked to have stolen the ointment, and sold it for his own personal profit. Many of us today are guilty of this sin of Judas, particularly those that would rob the church of its liturgical appointments, condemning them as luxuries. Not that they would steal from the church; but whenever a new chalice is needed for Holy Communion they will object that the money is being squandered foolishly, and the same with vestments, icons, and even with Bibles for the Sunday School. Any money spent for religious purposes, and especially for bringing others to the saving faith of Christ, is, according to these people, not necessary. It would be superfluous to comment upon the spiritual condition of these avaricious souls.”
Rev. George Dimopoulos

". . . anointing with such expensive oil was the traditional practice reserved for the deceased, the dead. But Jesus was not dead yet, he was very much alive. Then why did all this happen now, you may ask? Mary was foretelling the crucifixion of our Lord on the cross, and His burial in the tomb by her simple actions motivated purely by love. Our Lord specifically states that 'she (Mary) has kept this for the day of My burial.' (Jn 12:7). Here the actions of Mary teach us that Jesus was already dead to this world and to His human temptations. We too who attempt to live a life in Christ must also be dead to this world if we ever want to receive Christ.”
Kosmas Damianides

Alone to sacrifice thou goest, Lord,
giving thyself to Death
whom thou hast slain.
For us thy wretched folk is any word?
Who know that for our sins this is thy pain?
For they are ours, O Lord, our deeds, our deeds.
Why must thou suffer torture for our sin?
Let our hearts suffer in thy Passion, Lord,
that very suffering may thy mercy win.
This is the night of tears, the three days' space,
sorrow abiding of the eventide,
Until the day break with the risen Christ,
and hearts that sorrowed shall be satisfied.
So may our hearts share in thine anguish, Lord,
that they may sharers of thy glory be;
Heavy with weeping may the three days pass,
to win the laughter of thine Easter Day.
- Peter Abelard (1079-1142)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

FIRST READING (Isaiah 50:4-7)
The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

SECOND READING (Philippians 2:6-11)
Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

THE GOSPEL OF THE ENTRY (Matthew 21:1-11)
When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, `The Lord has need of them,' and he will send them immediately."

This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass."

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon. Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"


REFLECTION: HOW TO HANDLE HOLY WEEK- by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (1914-2003)
Today, on the day of Palms we stand in awe and amazement before what is happening in a way in which the Jews of Jerusalem could not meet Christ because they met Him imagining that He was the glorious king who would now take over all power, conquer and reject the heathen, - the Romans who were occupying their country, that He would re-establish a kingdom, an earthly kingdom of Israel.

We know that He had not come for that, He had come to establish a Kingdom that will have no end, a Kingdom of eternity, and the Kingdom that was not open only to one nation but was open to all nations, and the Kingdom that was to be founded on the life and on the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God become the Son of man.

And Holy Week is from one end to another a time of tragic confusion. The Jews meet Christ at the gates of Jerusalem because they expect of Him a triumphant military leader, and He comes to serve, to wash the feet of His disciples, to give His life for the people but not to conquer by force, by power. And the same people who meet Him shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" in a few days will shout, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" because He has betrayed their expectations. They expected an earthly victory and what they see is a defeated king. They hate Him for the disappointment of all their hopes.

And this is not so alien to us in our days. How many are those people who turn away in hatred from Christ because He has disappointed one hope or another. I remember a woman who had been a believer for all her life and whose grandson died, a little boy, and she said to me, "I don't believe in God any more. How could He take my grandson?" And I said to her, "But you believed in God while thousands and thousands and millions of people died."

And she looked at me and said, "Yes, but what did that do to me? I didn't care. They were not my children." This is something that happens to us in a small degree so often that we waver in our faith and in our faithfulness to God when something which we expect Him to do for us is not done, when He is not an obedient servant, when we proclaim our will, He does not say, "Amen," and does not do it. So we are not so alien from those who met Christ at the gates of Jerusalem and then turned away from Him.

But we are now entering into Holy Week. How can we face the events? I think we must enter into Holy Week not as observers, not reading the passages of the Gospel which are relevant, we must enter into Holy Week as though we were participants of the events, indeed read of them but then mix in the crowd that surrounds Christ and ask ourselves, Who am I in this crowd? Am I one of those who said, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!'? And am I now on the fringe of saying, 'Crucify him'? Am I one of the disciples who were faithful until the moments of ultimate danger came upon them?.. You remember that in the Garden of Gethsemane three disciples had been singled out by Jesus to support Him at the hour of His supreme agony, and they did not, they were tired, they were despondent and they fell asleep. Three times He came to them for support, three times they were away from Him.

We do not meet Christ in the same circumstances but we meet so many people who are in agony, not only dying physically (and that also happens to our friends, our relatives, people around us) but are in agony of terror one way or another. Are we there awake, alive, attentive to them, ready to help them out, and if we can't help, to be with them, to stand by them or do we fall asleep, that is, contract out, turn away, leave them in their agony, their fear, their misery? And again I am not speaking of Judas because none of us is aware of betraying Christ in such a way. But don't we betray Christ when we turn away from all His commandments? When He says, "I give you an example for you to follow," and we shake our heads and say, "No, I will simply follow the devices of my own heart." But think of Peter, apparently the strongest, the one who spoke time and again in the name of others. When it came to risking - not his life, because no-one was about to kill him - simply rejection, he denied Christ three times.

What do we do when we are challenged in the same way, when we are in danger of being mocked and ridiculed and put aside by our friends or our acquaintances who shrug their shoulders and say, "A Christian? And you believe in that? And you believe that Christ was God, and you believe in His Gospel, and you are on His side?" How often? O, we don't say, "No, we are not," but do we say, "Yes, it is my glory, and if you want to crucify Him, if you want to reject Him, reject me too because I choose to stand by Him, I am His disciple, even if I am to be rejected, even if you don't let me into your house any more."

And think of the crowd on Calvary. There were people who had been instrumental in His condemnation, they mocked Him, they had won their victory, so they thought at least. And then there were the soldiers, the soldiers who crucified Him. They had crucified innumerable other people, they were doing their job. It didn't matter to them whom they crucified. And yet Christ prayed for them, "Forgive them, Father, they don't know what they are doing." We are not being crucified physically, but do we say, "Forgive, Father, those who offend us, who humiliate us, who reject us, those who kill our joy and darken our life in us." Do we do that? No, we don't. So we must recognise ourselves in them also.

And then there was a crowd of people who had poured out of the city to see a man die -the fierce curiosity that pushes so many of us to be curious when suffering, agony comes upon people. You will say, it doesn't happen? Ask yourself how you watch television and how eagerly, hungrily you look at the horrors that befall Somalia, the Sudan, Bosnia and every other country. Is it with a broken heart? Is it that you can not endure the horror. and turn in prayer to God and then give, give, give generously all you can give for hunger and misery to be alleviated? Is it? No, we are the same people who came out on Calvary to see a man die. Curiosity, interest? Yes, alas.

And then there were those who had come with the hope that He will die because if He died on the cross, then they were free from this terrifying, horrible message He had brought that we must love one another to the point of being ready to die for each other. That message of the crucified, sacrificial love could be rejected once and for all if He who preached it died, and it was proved that He was a false prophet, a liar.

And then there were those who had come in the hope that He will come down from the cross, and then they could be believers without any risk, they would have joint the victorious party. Aren't we like that so often?

And then there is a point to which we hardly should dare turn our eyes - the Mother of the Incarnate Son of God, the Mother of Jesus, silent, offering His death for the salvation of mankind, silent and dying with Him hour after hour, and the disciple who knew in a youthful way how to love his master, standing by in horror, seeing his Master die and the Mother in agony. Are we like this when we read the Gospel, are we like this when we see the agony of men around us?

Let us therefore enter into this Holy Week in order not to be observers of what happened; let us enter into it mixed with the crowd and at every step ask ourselves, who am I in this crowd? Am I the Mother? Am I the disciple? Am I one of the crucifiers? And so forth. And then we will be able to meet the day of the Resurrection together with those to whom it was life and resurrection indeed, when despair had gone, new hope had come, and God had conquered.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent

FIRST READING (Ezekiel 37:21-28)
Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.

They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

"My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children's children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.

"I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.

"My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is in the midst of them for evermore."

GOSPEL (John 11:45-57)
Many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him; but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim; and there he stayed with the disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?"

Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if any one knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Jesus set his face like flint toward Jerusalem
(Word of Life Community)

Standing on the threshold of Holy Week
(Robert P. Heaney)

What makes a family
(Terry Nance)


Supposing you were at the gate of death and Christ stood there and said: "Do you want to come back?' And you said: "Yes", - doesn't it imply that you are coming back on absolutely new terms? Think of the rising of Lazarus. He had died, he had had the total experience of death and then he was brought back. Do you think that he possibly could return to the life he led with all its smallness, all the things that were not worthy of what truly a human being is, of the greatness of man? Of course not. And again in small it is the same with our illnesses. We come back to health and this health is a new birth, it's a new beginning, it's an offer given us by God to start life again. Physically and mentally it does come to this. I know that in my small experience, for about fifty years I have had a dislocated back. The moment this back was put right a few years ago I felt new life was given and that this life, this back of mine was to be used to the full, was to be used in a way in which I could not use the old one, the broken one, the dislocated one. And this does apply to all conditions in which healing comes to us.

I think we must realise that when we speak of healing in Christian terms we do not speak simply of a power possessed by God or by His saints or by people who being neither saints nor God are possessed of a natural gift to restore health for us to continue to live in the way in which we lived before, to remain the same unchanged. God does not heal us in order that we should go back to our sinful condition. He offers us newness of life, not the old life which we have already lost. And the new life which is offered us is no longer ours in a way, it is His, it's a gift of His, a present. It was Mine to give, take it... And it seems to me that thinking in spiritual terms, it is true. Because what is sin? We define sin all the time as moral infringement but it is much more than this: it is the very thing of which I was speaking, it is the lack of wholeness. When you think of yourself - or perhaps, I think of myself if you are that better than I which I doubt, - if we think of ourselves: I am divided - mind against heart, heart against will, body against all the rest. We are all not only schizophrenic, but schizo-everything, we are just like a broken mirror and so that is the condition of sin: it is not so much that the mirror doesn't reflect well, it is the fact that it is broken that is the problem. You can, of course, try to take a small piece of it and see what you can see, but it is still a broken mirror. And this brokenness of ours within corresponds to a brokenness in our relationships with other people. We are afraid of them, we are envious of them, we are greedy, what not. So it creates a whole relational sinfulness and indeed it applies supremely to God because it all results from our having lost our harmony with God. The saints are people who are in harmony with Him, nothing more, nothing less, simply that. And as the result of being in harmony they can be in harmony within themselves and with other people.
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh - excerpt from a talk

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast won for me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly:
for ever and ever. Amen.
St Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent

FIRST READING (Jeremiah 20:10-13)
I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him."

But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonour will never be forgotten.

O Lord of hosts, who triest the righteous, who seest the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause.

Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.

GOSPEL (John 10:31-42)
At that time: The Jews took up stones again to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?"

The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God."

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, `You are blaspheming,' because I said, `I am the Son of God'? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."

Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there he remained. And many came to him; and they said, "John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true."

And many believed in him there.

Doers of the word or forgetful hearers?
(Word of Life Community)

Rejection for speaking the truth
(Howie Kalb, SJ)

The response of the self-righteous.
(John Stack, OSA)

John the Baptist was obviously not as great as Jesus was - he performed no signs like Jesus did. But he did serve his purpose to point people to Jesus.

What a testimony - everything John said about Jesus was true.

John had been beheaded & was gone, but his teaching lived on. May people say about us when we are gone that everything we told them about Jesus was true. May neighbours and co-workers and friends say that we spoke the truth of Jesus in love.

May our kids and relatives and fellow believers know we're committed to knowing and sharing God's truth revealed in his Word and in Jesus. And may many believe in Jesus through our testimony as they did there where John had ministered. I pray that you want that kind of legacy - a legacy of loving proclamation of biblical and Christ-honouring truth.

But you will not have that legacy unless you discipline your mind to understand and communicate truth clearly to people of every age.

You may have a legacy of being a nice person, even a caring Christian who did loving acts of service. But you may not leave enough truth behind you for anyone to follow in your footsteps. Please discipline your mind & open your mouth to speak truth to other people.

You will fumble and fail and have to correct yourself and even have to seek forgiveness for wrong words at times. You will even face opposition like Jesus did, but it is worth it. It is worth the joy you'll have & the love you'll share. It is worth the effort for the glory of God & the good of others. Be like Jesus & make biblical arguments out of love for souls.

And today, if you are a soul who has never come face to face with the exclusive truth claims of Jesus, then hear him today. He healed all kinds of incurable diseases and afflictions to show his divine power and love. He spoke with undeniable authority and wisdom. He was God in flesh. He lived on earth and then He died to receive the punishment for sin for all who trust him. Then he rose again to prove he conquered of sin & death. So believe & entrust your life to him.
From Blasphemy or Deity? By Mark Vaughan.

O my God, I beseech thee, by thy loneliness,
not that thou shouldst spare me affliction,
but that thou not abandon me in it.
When I encounter affliction,
teach me to see thee in it
as my sole Comforter.
May affliction strengthen my faith,
fortify my hope,
and purify my love.
Grant me the grace to see thy hand
in my affliction,
and to desire no other comforter but thee. Amen.
St Bernadette of Lourdes (1844-1879)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Annunciation of the Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

FIRST READING (Isaiah 7:10-14)
The Lord spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven."

But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test."

And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

SECOND READING (Hebrews 10:4-10)
It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.

Then I said, `Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,' as it is written of me in the roll of the book."

When he said above, "Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "Lo, I have come to do thy will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

GOSPEL (Luke 1:26-38)
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!"

But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.

And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."

And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"

And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible."

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

And the angel departed from her.

With God nothing is impossible
(Word of Life Community)

Annunciation Sermon
(Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh)

Mary's "Yes" to God
(M. Linda Jaczynski)

"You have heard that you shall conceive and bear a Son; you have heard that you shall conceive, not of man, but of the Holy Spirit. The angel is waiting for your answer: it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for the word of pity, even we who are overwhelmed in wretchedness by the sentence of damnation.

"And behold, to you the price of our salvation is offered. If you consent, straightway shall we be freed. In the Word of God were we all made, and lo! we die; by one little word of yours in answer shall we all be made alive.

"Adam asks this of you, O loving Virgin, poor Adam, exiled as he is from paradise with all his poor wretched children; Abraham begs this of you, and David; this all the holy fathers implore, even your fathers, who themselves are dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death; this the whole world is waiting for, kneeling at your feet.

"And rightly so, for on your lips is hanging the consolation of the wretched, the redemption of the captive, the speedy deliverance of all who otherwise are lost; in a word, the salvation of all Adam's children, of all your race.

"Answer, O Virgin, answer the angel speedily; rather, through the angel, answer your Lord. Speak the word, and receive the Word; offer what is yours, and conceive what is of God; give what is temporal, and embrace what is eternal.

"Why delay? Why tremble? Believe, speak, receive! Let your humility put on boldness, and your modesty be clothed with trust. Not now should your virginal simplicity forget prudence! In this one thing alone, O prudent Virgin, fear not presumption; for although modesty that is silent is pleasing, more needful now is the loving-kindness of your word.

"Open, O Blessed Virgin, your heart to faith; open your lips to speak; open your bosom to your Maker. Behold! The Desired of all nations is outside, knocking at your door. Oh! if by your delay he should pass by, and again in sorrow you should have to begin to seek for him whom your soul loves! Arise, then, run and open. Arise by faith, run by the devotion of your heart, open by your word. 'And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord : be it done to me according to your word.'"
(From The Homilies of St Bernard (Hom 4,8-9) as given in The Divine Office, Volume 1.)

Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is All everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
So, faithful Virgin, yields himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though he there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet he'll wear
Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in his mind, who is thy Son and Brother;
Whom thou conceiv'st, conceiv'd; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother;
Thou hast light in dark, and shut'st in little room
Immensity, cloistered in thy dear womb.
John Donne (1572 - 1631)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

FIRST READING (Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25, 28)
King Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image which I have set up?

Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image which I have made, well and good; but if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace; and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?"

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up."

Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he ordered certain mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He said to his counsellors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?" They answered the king, "True, O king."

He answered, "But I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods."

Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set at nought the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God."

GOSPEL (John 8:31-42)
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, `You will be made free'?"

Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father."

They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did. You do what your father did."

They said to him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God."

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him."

They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him."

As he spoke thus, many believed in him.


(Word of Life Community)

(Nancy Shirley, Creighton University)

(Christopher Engelhart)


"Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:19-20).

This great royal commission, from the Lord of Hosts, has been valid until the present, and shall be so until his second advent, which is imminent. It is the sacred obligation of every loyal member of the body of Christ to be obedient, and to preach the Good News of salvation. Fulfilling the Great Commission is the greatest of all achievements, the highest call ever given to mankind! What a privilege it is to respond to the call together! Surely the Church is not left alone to do her task, but with the encouraging promise that her Savior would be with her to the end of the age.

However, as a faithful Christian, before you go out and share your faith with others, you need to be strong in the faith yourself, you need to be extremely confident in the message that you are sharing; otherwise the slightest bit of opposition could make a doubter out of you. Today, probably more than ever, the Church is facing a lot of opposition; tragically, the Church is not only being attacked from those outside the faith, but from inside. They alter and change the words in the Bible to make it compatible with their deviant immoral lifestyles, and they attack the character of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, "even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them .. ." (2 Peter 2:1).

One day a beloved friend invited me for dinner. On that night he introduced me to a young man of the Hindu faith named Shamu. Although I was initially surprised, I sensed that this was an opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with this new friend. Having relaxed for a moment and prayed, I turned to Shamu and asked him if he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. He answered gently, "I have heard about Jesus, but I do not believe in Him as the Christians do. We have many teachers and philosophers who have written good ethical teachings just like those of your Christ." I replied, "It is true that there were many ethical teachers throughout Asia, before Christ, but it is important to know that Jesus Christ did not come merely to give us good moral and ethical teaching; He came to give us forgiveness of sins and salvation. Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many (Luke 10:45b). Jesus came 'to call us out of darkness into His marvelous light' "(1 Peter 2:9b). I explained to him how those who do not believe in Christ stand in condemnation (John 3:16-18).

Shamu did not want to know more about Jesus or about salvation. Instead, he did what many try to do: to deflect the conversation away from the personal responsibility to have faith. He tried to discredit the person of the blessed Lord. Shamu ironically asked, "Can you tell me, Father Joseph, where your Christ was from the age of twelve to thirty?" He then proceeded to tell me that he had read a book about Jesus' travels to India where he sat at the feet of a Hindu Yogi to learn yoga that would enable him to do miracles.

My answer was quick to my lips, although Shamu was reluctant to hear about God's grace and tried several more times to change the subject. My friend and I shared with Shamu our love and our desire for him to be included in the Christian family.

Some of you might ask, why should we bother to say a word about Jesus to non-believers? The answer is simple. Other than what had been mentioned previously, that it is a command from our Lord to do so, you need to understand that those who do not believe are standing in condemnation. Love for those without a belief in Christ would surely motivate anyone with an ounce of compassion to make the very best rescue attempt for their salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ is the light of the world who said that if we believe in Him, we are not condemned, "but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:18-19). Spreading the word of that light, in season and out of season, is our mission. Therefore, the motivations of obedience to Christ's royal commission and of love for the unbelieving soul inspires the believer to speak with confidence and boldness.

The message is clear and simple. We as faithful Christians have to respond to the mandatory command of our Lord because we do not have the option of keeping the good news of salvation to ourselves. So let us concur with St. Paul: I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16).
From the article: Share your Faith with Confidence by Archpriest Joseph Sakkab, Dean The Prarie Deanary, Aniochian Orthodox Church.

Lord, teach me to see thee,
and reveal thyself to me when I seek thee.
For I cannot find thee unless thou teach me,
nor find thee except if thou reveal thyself.
Let me seek thee in longing.
Let me long for thee in seeking.
Let me find thee in love,
and love thee in finding. Amen.
St Ambrose of Milan (340-397 AD)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

FIRST READING (Numbers 21:4-9)
From Mount Hor the Hebrews set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food."

Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

And the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us."

So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

GOSPEL (John 8:21-30)
Jesus said to the Pharisees, "I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come."

Then said the Jews, "Will he kill himself, since he says, `Where I am going, you cannot come'?"

He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he."

They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Even what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him."

They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him."

As he spoke thus, many believed in him.

Do you know the healing power of the cross of Christ?
(Word of Life Community)

Temptation, Testimony & Truth
(Tom Purcell, Creighton University)

Finding some quiet time with the Lord
(Nancy Kelley)

Pope Francis on Jesus bearing our guilt (From this morning's Mass, 8th April, 2014):

The relationship between Christianity and the Cross and our own sins was the focus of Pope Francis’s reflections at his Mass on Tuesday in the Santa Marta residence. In his homily, the Pope said Christianity does not exist without the Cross and stressed that we are unable to free ourselves from our sins on our own. The Cross, he said, is not an ornament to place on the altar but is the mystery of God’s love who takes our sins upon himself. He then reflected on the meaning of Jesus’s warning to the Pharisees “You will die in your sin.”

“It is impossible for us to free ourselves from sin on our own. It’s impossible. These doctors of the law, these people who taught the law, didn’t have a clear idea on this. They believed, yes, in the forgiveness of God but considered themselves strong, self-sufficient and that they knew everything. And in the end they transformed religion, their adoration of God, into a culture with values, reflections, certain commandments of conduct to be polite and they believed, yes, that the Lord can pardon them, they knew this but they were far removed from all this.”

Pope Francis said the serpent is the symbol of sin as seen in the bible. In the desert sin was lifted up but it is a sin that seeks salvation so that it heals. It is Jesus, the Son of Man, the true savior, who is lifted up.
“Christianity is not a philosophical doctrine, it’s not a programme for life survival or education, or for peacemaking. These are consequences. Christianity is a person, a person raised on the Cross, a person who annihilated himself to save us, who became sin. Just as sin was raised up in the desert, here God who was made man and made sin for us was raised up. All our sins were there. You cannot understand Christianity without understanding this profound humiliation of the Son of God who humbled himself and became a servant unto death, even death on a cross, in order to serve us.”

This is why, the Pope went on, the apostle Paul said we do not have other things to boast about, apart from our sins, and this is our misery. But through the mercy of God, we rejoice in the crucified Christ. It’s for this reason that ‘there is no Christianity without the Cross and there’s no Cross without Jesus Christ.

“The Cross is not an ornament that we must always put in the churches, there on the altar. It is not a symbol that distinguishes us from others. The Cross is mystery, the mystery of God who humbles himself, he becomes ‘nothing.’ He becomes sin. Where is your sin? ‘I don’t know, I have so many here.’ No, your sin is there, in the Cross. Go and find it there, in the wounds of the Lord and your sins will be healed, your wounds will be healed, your sins will be forgiven. The forgiveness that God gives us is not the same as cancelling a debt that we have with Him, the forgiveness that God gives us are the wounds of his Son on the Cross, raised up on the Cross. May he draw us towards Him and may we allow ourselves to be healed by him.”

"I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one of the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it it show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: "I don't even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets, and dirt." there are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively, and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.

“The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: "I don't know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil." This is the second category of people who have a positive way of thinking, and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface.

“When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people, and puts me in a difficult situation, I tell him the above example. Then, I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with."
From Elder Paisios on the Holy Mountain by PriestMonk Christodoulos, p.43-44

May the cross of the Son of God,
who is mightier than all the hosts of Satan,
and more glorious than all the angels of heaven,
abide with us in our going out and our coming in.
By day and by night, at morning and at evening,
at all times and in all places,
may it protect and defend us.
From the wrath of evil men,
from the assaults of evil spirits,
from foes visible and invisible,
from the snares of the devil,
from all low passions that beguile the soul and body,
may it guard, protect, and deliver us.
And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be upon us and remain with us always. Amen.
(Adapted from an Indian Christaraksha prayer)

Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Susanna and the Elders, by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656)

FIRST READING (Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-63)
There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim. And he took a wife named Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord. Her parents were righteous, and had taught their daughter according to the law of Moses.

Joakim was very rich, and had a spacious garden adjoining his house; and the Jews used to come to him because he was the most honoured of them all.

In that year two elders from the people were appointed as judges. Concerning them the Lord had said: "Iniquity came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people."

These men were frequently at Joakim's house, and all who had suits at law came to them. When the people departed at noon, Susanna would go into her husband's garden to walk.

The two elders used to see her every day, going in and walking about, and they began to desire her. And they perverted their minds and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering righteous judgments.

Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the garden, for it was very hot. And no one was there except the two elders, who had hid themselves and were watching her. She said to her maids, "Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I may bathe."

When the maids had gone out, the two elders rose and ran to her, and said: "Look, the garden doors are shut, no one sees us, and we are in love with you; so give your consent, and lie with us. If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with you, and this was why you sent your maids away."

Susanna sighed deeply, and said, "I am hemmed in on every side. For if I do this thing, it is death for me; and if I do not, I shall not escape your hands. I choose not to do it and to fall into your hands, rather than to sin in the sight of the Lord."

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against her. And one of them ran and opened the garden doors. When the household servants heard the shouting in the garden, they rushed in at the side door to see what had happened to her.

And when the elders told their tale, the servants were greatly ashamed, for nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna.

The next day, when the people gathered at the house of her husband Joakim, the two elders came, full of their wicked plot to have Susanna put to death. They said before the people, "Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, who is the wife of Joakim." So they sent for her. And she came, with her parents, her children, and all her kindred.

But her family and friends and all who saw her wept.

Then the two elders stood up in the midst of the people, and laid their hands upon her head.And she, weeping, looked up toward heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord.

The elders said, "As we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids. Then a young man, who had been hidden, came to her and lay with her.We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them. We saw them embracing, but we could not hold the man, for he was too strong for us, and he opened the doors and dashed out. So we seized this woman and asked her who the young man was, but she would not tell us. These things we testify."

The assembly believed them, because they were elders of the people and judges; and they condemned her to death.

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said, "O eternal God, who dost discern what is secret, who art aware of all things before they come to be, thou knowest that these men have borne false witness against me. And now I am to die! Yet I have done none of the things that they have wickedly invented against me!"

The Lord heard her cry.

And as she was being led away to be put to death, God aroused the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel; and he cried with a loud voice, "I am innocent of the blood of this woman."

All the people turned to him, and said, "What is this that you have said?"

Taking his stand in the midst of them, he said, "Are you such fools, you sons of Israel? Have you condemned a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts? Return to the place of judgment. For these men have borne false witness against her."

Then all the people returned in haste. And the elders said to him, "Come, sit among us and inform us, for God has given you that right."

And Daniel said to them, "Separate them far from each other, and I will examine them."

When they were separated from each other, he summoned one of them and said to him, "You old relic of wicked days, your sins have now come home, which you have committed in the past, pronouncing unjust judgments, condemning the innocent and letting the guilty go free, though the Lord said, `Do not put to death an innocent and righteous person.' Now then, if you really saw her, tell me this: Under what tree did you see them being intimate with each other?" He answered, "Under a mastic tree."

And Daniel said, "Very well! You have lied against your own head, for the angel of God has received the sentence from God and will immediately cut you in two."

Then he put him aside, and commanded them to bring the other. And he said to him, "You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you and lust has perverted your heart. This is how you both have been dealing with the daughters of Israel, and they were intimate with you through fear; but a daughter of Judah would not endure your wickedness. Now then, tell me: Under what tree did you catch them being intimate with each other?" He answered, "Under an evergreen oak."

And Daniel said to him, "Very well! You also have lied against your own head, for the angel of God is waiting with his sword to saw you in two, that he may destroy you both."

Then all the assembly shouted loudly and blessed God, who saves those who hope in him. And they rose against the two elders, for out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness; and they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do to their neighbour; acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death. Thus innocent blood was saved that day.

GOSPEL (John 8: 12-20)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

The Pharisees then said to him, "You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true."

Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going. You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me."

They said to him therefore, "Where is your Father?"

Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also."

These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

I am hemmed in on every side
(Word of Life Community)

Temptation, Testimony & Truth
(Tom Purcell, Creighton University)

The Lost Heroine of the Old Testament
(Fr Patrick Henry Reardon.)
PART 1       PART 2      PART 3

Susanna, wass falsely accused by two corrupt evil men who wanted to have their way with her.  Though they were powerful men and elders in the community, Susanna remained chaste.  In order to protect themselves, they falsely accused her and condemned her to death.

Though all seemed lost. Surrounded by the powers of evil and darkness, Susanna surrendered to God, knowing herself to be innocent.

God stirred Daniel’s spirit, who demanded a thorough examination of the evidence.  Daniel made himself vulnerable to the hostility of these powerful men, calling the judges and elders fools.  He made himself vulnerable in order to bring justice to the innocent.

The story of Susanna, at this point in Lent, should remind us of another false accusation. 
The Lord Jesus, the sinless Lamb, allowed himself to be falsely accused and convicted by evil men.

Because who of us are as innocent as Susanna or as courageous as Daniel, willing to suffer to protect the innocent.  Most likely, we are more like the corrupt judges, or the Pharisees pointing their fingers at the Lord.  But the Lord lays down his life willingly, out of his great love for us, and his desire that we be with him in eternity.

During these final weeks of Lent, we do well to enter into some serious prayer, asking the Lord to shine his light of truth into the deepest, darkest, most unloving parts of our hearts.  That our selfishness and fears may be illuminated and that in the moment of trial we may remain faithful.

Christ is the light.  To quote the final words of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical:

Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world.

May the light of Christ expel all darkness in our hearts for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

- Fr Kevin Estabrook

O God,
your inexhaustible grace enriches us with every blessing.
Give us the gift of abandoning our old life and becoming new,
to be ready for the glory of your heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.