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. 


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