Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Today's reading and reflection



FIRST READING  (Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12)
The angel brought me back to the door of the temple; and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.

Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate, that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.

Going on eastward with a line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep.

Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the loins.

Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.

And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”

Then he led me back along the bank of the river.

As I went back, I saw upon the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the stagnant waters of the sea, the water will become fresh.And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish; for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.

“And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”


GOSPEL (John 5:1-16)
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed.

One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.”

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.

Now that day was the sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me said to me, `Take up your pallet, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, `Take up your pallet, and walk’?”

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.

Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.”

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath.


REFLECTIONS
Do we really want to be changed? - Servants of the Word

In the River of God - David Wilkerson

The Holy Spirit is the River St Ambrose of Milan


FURTHERMORE . . .
“’The river of God is brimming with water.’ ‘You have provided their food, for this is your way of preparing them.’ There can be no doubt about the river referred to, for the prophet says: ‘There is a river whose streams gladden the city of God;’ and in the gospel, the Lord himself says: ‘Streams of living water welling up to eternal life will flow from the heart of anyone who drinks the water I shall give him. He was speaking of the Holy Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.’ The river of God is brimming with water; that is to say, we are inundated by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and from that fountain of life the river of God pours into us in full flood.

“We also have food prepared for us. And who is this food? It is he in whom we are prepared for life with God, for by receiving his holy body we receive a place in the communion of his holy body. This is what is meant by the words of the psalm: ‘You have provided their food, for this is your way of preparing them.’ For as well as refreshing us now, that food also prepares us for the life to come.

“We who have been reborn through the sacrament of baptism experience intense joy when we feel within us the first stirrings of the Holy Spirit. We begin to have an insight into the mysteries of faith, we are able to prophesy and to speak with wisdom. We become steadfast in hope and receive the gift of healing. Demons are made subject to our authority. These gifts enter us like a gentle rain, and once having done so, little by little, they bring forth fruit in abundance.”
St Hilary of Poitiers (c.300 - c.368)


PRAYER
O, Ancient of Days,
We come from rivers that are not rivers, 
from fountains that do not sing of life, 
from barren springs where promise has failed, 
from stony wells that mock the dream of Jubilee. 

But from the abundance of your life, 
roll down upon us now the tide of your sweet Spirit, 
that flagging faith be refreshed, 
that stubborn wounds be cleansed and healed, 
that brokenness be drenched with wholeness, 
that what is defiled and disgrace be washed and relieved. 

From the headwaters of your mercy and goodness, 
flood the flatlands of resignation, 
carry away what is trifling, jaded, and vain, 
fill the cisterns provided to slake our thirst, 
fill us with yearning to mirror your lavish giving, 
brim the hearts of your people with tears of compassion 
and the laughter of joyful service. 

From heaven’s watershed of grace and salvation, 
cascade upon us the fullness of your realm; 
let its thunder possess our whole hearts, 
let its simplicity be our peace, 
let its quaking be our only strength. 

River of healing, Spirit of life,
grant this we beg you;
for love of your only One we pray. Amen.
- Jonathan Larson







Monday, March 27, 2017

Today's readings & meditation



FIRST READING (Isaiah 65:17-21)
Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.

“I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.”


GOSPEL (John 4:43-54)
Jesus departed to Galilee. For he himself testified that a prophet has no honour in his own country.

So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast, for they too had gone to the feast. So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.

And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill.When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.Jesus therefore said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way.

As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. So he asked them the hour when he began to mend, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”

The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live”; and he himself believed, and all his household.

This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.


REFLECTIONS
Seeking the Lord with expectant faith - Servants of the Word

Jesus, signs & wonders, and the new creation - Fr Robert Altier

Signs and Wonders Presentation Ministries


FURTHERMORE . . .
“Here was a robust faith [in the case of this official]; therefore, Jesus made him the promise, so that we might learn from this man’s devotion; his faith was as yet imperfect, and he did not clearly realize that Jesus could effect the cure at a distance; thus, the Lord, by not agreeing to go down to the man’s house, wished us to learn the need to have faith”
St.John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) “Homily on St. John”, 35.


Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
unuttered or expressed,
the motion of a hidden fire
that trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
the falling of a tear,
the upward glancing of an eye,
when none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try;
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
the Christian’s native air,
our watchword at the gates of death,
we enter heaven with prayer.
James Montgomery (1771-1854)


PRAYER
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve thee as thou deservest;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil, and not to seek for rest;
to labour, and to ask for no reward,
save that of knowing that we do thy will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Today's readings and reflection



FIRST READING (1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13)  
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord s anointed is before him.” 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 

And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” 

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.”  

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.


SECOND READING (Ephesians 5:8-14)  
Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”


GOSPEL  (John 9:1-41) 
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 

The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” 

Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” 

He said, “I am the man.” 

They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 

He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.” 

They said to him, “Where is he?” 

He said, “I do not know.” 

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 

Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” 

There was a division among them. 

So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” 

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, 19 and asked them, 

“Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 

His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 

His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.” 

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.” 

He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 

They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 

He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?” 

And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 

They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. 

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” 

He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 

Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” 

He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshipped him. 

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.


REFLECTIONS 
Jesus frees us from spiritual blindness and sin - Servants of the Word  

Three Causes of Spiritual Blindness - Sermons at St Nicholas

The Man Born Blind - Metropolitan Anthony Bloom 


FURTHERMORE . . . (by Fr Robin Gibbons)
Because of modern medicine and health-care many of us can rejoice that we have relatively good eyesight. Compared to generations before us, problems like cataracts, that in some countries are an unremitting problem for many without adequate access to good surgery, can, if provision is found, now be cured by a small routine operation! Yet we also have many whose condition makes it impossible to see in terms of visibility. For them the world becomes a different experience in which other types of ‘seeing’ take place, for sounds, touch, smell become the landscape and often it is a relationship with their seeing eye dog (guide dog), that is crucial. 

Those of us who take our eyes for granted, need to be reminded that we too need others to guide and help us see, because as Jesus reminds us through the story of the man born blind, the true sight of God is a great mixture of things. These words are always important: “But the Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart. “(1 Samuel 16:7)

Time and time again Jesus takes us to this point, within, in what we call the ‘heart’ is where the great encounter and revelation of God happens to each of us, where we truly perceive things, unless of course we block it out, make ourselves inwardly blind through our own sinfulness. We can cast our minds back to the elderly Simeon, who seeing the Christ child recognised, not by outward appearance but through his inner sight, the promised one in his arms. To ‘see salvation’ is not something visible except in terms of an encounter in compassion and love with another.

This is precisely what we find in that moving story of the healing of the man born blind. In his meeting with Jesus something powerful happens, not only is new sight given him, but also the inner sight of a compassionate and truthful heart is opened. His dialogue with the Pharisees about Jesus shows that he has the grace of seeing salvation, but they, in their obstinate refusal to become open to the works of God outside their control, are the truly blind.

The young man said, ‘”I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”’ (John 9:38,39) The loving question the Lord asks us is simple, do we wish to be healed of our blindness, do we want to take the risk of seeing a little with the eyes of God? Do we wish to see salvation?


HYMN  (John Newton - all the verses)
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Today's readings and reflection: The Annunciation of the Lord ("Lady Day")




The Annunciation ceramic and altar just inside the main doorway 
of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk, U.K.


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.


REFLECTIONS 
Blessed is she who believed - Patti Gallagher Mansfield (from an article in the July-August 1997 issue of the ICCRS Newsletter. ICCRS, Palazzo della Cancelleria, 00120 Vatican City, Europe.)
Here is Mary, the woman of prayer, attentive and responsive to God, with hands open and empty before God, not clinging to any conditions. A simple fiat. Yes. Be it done to me according to your word. Indeed, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord" (Lk 1:45). By faith she permitted the Father to fulfill His plan and welcomed the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. By faith she embraced the Word made flesh in her womb. We know that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (cf. Heb. 11:6) and that Mary found favor with Him by her faith.

So must we, at this juncture in our lives as individuals and as a movement, kneel before the Father in a radical poverty of spirit and learn to pray with hands open and empty. In the past 30 years we have received great graces, but I'm afraid that too often we've returned to God with our hands full instead of empty. I sense that there are new "annunciations" being given for a new move of the Spirit, but that many of us don't really want God to be God. We still want Him on our own terms... a God who will fit into a prescribed pattern of acting. We don't want the Living God who turned Mary's life upside down. Let's be careful! By her, faith, Mary permitted God to "create a new thing upon the earth' (Jer 31:22). As I've asked Mary to be my mother and teach me to pray with hands open and empty, this is what I am leaning to say to the Father, "With Mary, I want to be for You all YES, only YES, always YES."

With God nothing is impossible - Servants of the Word

Why did God want to use Mary to defeat Satan? Sam Guzman


FURTHERMORE . . .
"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.)


PRAYER
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)


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.


REFLECTIONS 
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."


REFLECTIONS 
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. 
Amen.