There is a beautiful old story that tells of how Jesus, after His ascension into Heaven, was surrounded by the Holy Angels who began to enquire about his work on earth. Jesus told them about His birth, life, preaching, death, and resurrection, and how he had accomplished the salvation of the world. The angel Gabriel asked, “Well, now that you are back in Heaven, who will continue your work on earth?" Jesus said, "While I was on earth, I gathered a group of people around me who believed in me and loved me. They will continue to spread the Gospel and carry on the work of the Church.” Gabriel was perplexed. "You mean Peter, who denied you thrice and all the rest who ran away when you were crucified? You mean to tell us that you left them to carry on your work? And what will you do if this plan doesn't work?" Jesus said, "I have no other plan – it must work." Truly, Jesus has no other plan than to depend on the efforts of his followers! Jesus counts on you and me. Are we ready?
St. Augustine writes that Christ is our head and we are one with him. He says, “No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by union with us, and we by our union with him are sons of God.” He quotes the Apostles, “just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ.” Ascension invites us to reflect on our identity. Jesus, through his passion, death, and resurrection, opened up for a new pathway for relationship. He promised advocate, Holy Spirit to guide us and walk with us.
Sunday, May 24, 2020, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Distribution of Communion at St. Anthony!
Last Tuesday, all of the Pastors had a meeting with Bishop James Powers and talked about the distribution of Holy Communion in a responsible way. Sunday, May 24, 2020 we, Northwoods Catholic Communities will gather at St. Anthony for the reception of Holy Communion from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. I know there will be questions about the other two parishes (Immaculate Conception and St. Francis). It is very important to receive the Eucharist, at the same time we have to do it in a very responsible and safe way. We will start at St. Anthony for one or two weeks; it will be a learning time. Then slowly we can start the other two parishes too.
The idea is everyone watches Mass online or on TV and comes for Holy Communion in the afternoon. There will be a very short prayer service for immediate preparation to receive the Eucharist. After receiving the Eucharist, there will be a closing prayer, and then everyone is leaves the building. There won’t be any opportunity to stay in the Church and pray, because there is another group that will be coming in.
When you come into the building, please use the parking lot entrance. Everyone is encouraged to wear a mask. Hand sanitizers will be available at the entrance and exit doors. You are coming through the Parking Lot Entrance and leaving through the South Entrance.
If you have any symptoms, sickness, or a compromised immune system, we encourage staying home and watch Mass online or on TV and receive Spiritual Communion.
When you come to the parking lot entrance, there will be greeters at the parking lot entrance to give guidance and instruct you. We are gathering ONLY EIGHT PEOPLE at a time. The first eight people gather in the Church for the Communion Service. If we have more than eight people, one of the Deacons will do a second prayer service in the Padua Center. If we still have another group of eight people, a third prayer Service will take place at School Cafeteria. At the end of the prayer service at each location (Padua Center and Cafeteria), you are coming to the Church to receive Communion and leaving through the South Entrance. When you come to the church for Holy Communion, there will be only one line and each individual should keep six feet distancing. You can receive Communion only in the hands.
The prayer service is very short, 6 or 7 minutes, so we encourage everyone not to sit, or kneel down and not touch either. The doors will be wide open; so you can just walk in and out.
Saint Teresa of Avila, the 16th-century Spanish mystic, saw an angel rushing towards her, carrying a torch and a bucket of water. “Where are you going with that torch and bucket,” she asked; “what will you do with them?”
“With the water,” the angel answered, “I will put out the fires of hell, and with the fire, I will burn down the mansions of heaven; then we will see who really loves God.”
The angel’s point is that many people obey God’s commandments out of fear or hope of reward in heaven. But Jesus tells us, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Jesus loves us, so he says; Father will give us an Advocate in his name.
This weekend supposed to have Confirmation. Because of our present situation, it is postponed. Today’s readings speak about joy. There is the joy that new Christians in Samaria had after Philip baptized them. There is the joy that St. Peter tells us is the reason for our hope. There is the joy that Jesus says comes from the Love of the Father. Jesus says Father will give you the Holy Spirit, the animating power of love.
The first reading Philip perched the Good News to people of Samaria and Peter and John went there to give baptism and laying hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Peter’s the first letter to the Church explains how the Holy Spirit makes possible God-fearing lives in the midst of opposition and persecution. Peter encourages the Christians in the midst of persecution in the second reading.
Jesus made a long farewell speech at the Last Supper. Today’s Gospel reading is part of the long "Farewell Discourse." Jesus assures his disciples that they will not be left as orphans. Like the Good counselor He is, the Holy Spirit enables us to become stronger. The Holy Spirit comes to our aid and gives us the strength to make difficult and painful decisions. The Holy Spirit actually lives in us, and we hear the voice of the Spirit, counseling, and guiding us in the way of truth. Let us open our minds and hearts to hear Him and to obey His promptings.
Let us pray for our Confirmation Candidates, their sponsors, and families. Let us also pray for our graduates.
Happy Mother’s Day! One of my favorite Spanish proverbs: "An ounce of mother is better than a pound of clergy." The word “mom” is synonymous with sacrificial love in its purest form as given by Jesus in his farewell speech: love one another as I have loved you. Mothers leave their legacy with us. They live in and through us.
On Mother’s Day let us Christians, acknowledge the truth that we have two mothers: our earthly mother and our heavenly mother, Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Catholic Church proclaims the great nobility of the mother of Jesus, Mary most holy, and presents her as the supreme model for all mothers. She born into humble surroundings, she was called by God to be the mother of the Son of God. She affirmed her obedience to the call of God and lived out her vocation throughout her entire life. Mary, the mother of Jesus, our Blessed Mother, is the true model of motherhood.
An Indian poet says in his one of the poems, mother never dies. He says mother gives her blood to her children when they are in the womb, and when they are born through breastfeeding those mothers share their life. Mothers live through their children. We pray on this Mothers’ Day, for all our mothers, whether they are alive or have gone to their eternal reward. Let us thank God for all mothers and offer them at the altar. Happy Mather’s Day!
Today, in the Gospel, Jesus gives us a big picture. He begins and ends this short teaching at the Last Supper with the need to have faith. There is an incident from St. John Chrysostom’s life. When he was summoned before the Roman emperor Arcadius and threatened with banishment, he replied, “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” “Then I will kill you,” exclaimed the emperor angrily. “No, you cannot,” retorted Chrysostom, “because my life is hidden with Christ in God.” “Your treasures shall be confiscated,” the emperor replied grimly. “Sir, you can’t do that because my treasures are in heaven as my heart is there.” “I will drive you from your people and you shall have no friends left,” threatened the emperor. “That you cannot do either, Sir, for I have a Friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’” In today’s gospel Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life gives us the same assurance. “In my Father's house, there are many dwelling places. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”
In the Gospel, we see Philip and Thomas ask questions. They are searching for answers. They want God in their lives. In the first reading, the Twelve try to find more time for prayer and proclaiming the Word of God. They need to be with God and share the Good News.
Do we seek God? Do we spend time with God? We need to make a prayer schedule, and we need to keep it. Jesus says, “In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places…I am the way and the truth and the life.” He is the true way to the Father; he is the fullness of truth and fullness of life, life eternal.
Good Shepherd Sunday! The month of May, the month of Mary!
The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday and it is the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” The scripture lessons for this weekend is about the role of the shepherd. Each year, this Sunday we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who devotedly and kindly takes care of his flock.
In his book, The Holy Land, John Kellman describes a field pen. It consists of a circular stone wall about four feet high with an opening in it. Kellman says that one-day a Holy Land tourist saw a field pen near Hebron. He asked a shepherd sitting nearby, “where’s the gate for your pen?” The shepherd said, “I am the gate.”
The shepherd then told the tourist how he herded his flock into the pen each night. Then he lay down across the narrow entrance. No sheep could leave the pen, and no wild animal could enter it, without stepping on his body.
Jesus is our shepherd, who lays down his life for us, to give us new life and He is with us. He broke the bread and said to his disciples, this is My Body, take, and eat it. Jesus tells us the same, “This is My Body.” We are fed at this table and send out shepherd in our daily life. We are called to do the same, to break us and give to others.
We can see the image of shepherd throughout the Bible. In the book of the prophet Jeremiah chapter 23, we see the contrast between the good shepherd and false shepherd. The Lord says, “I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king, he shall reign and govern wisely.” This weekend we have responsorial psalm 23. This psalm tells us that our God is a loving and caring God, he is with us.
Today is the Good Shepherd Sunday and “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” Let us pray for Pope Francis, he shepherds our church. Let us pray for Bishop of our diocese James Powers, all the priests, religious, deacons, seminarians. Let us also pray for all those who are like a shepherd in our life.
The month of May is dedicated to Mary. The Catholic Church proclaims the great nobility of the mother of Jesus, Mary most holy, and presents her as the supreme model for all mothers. She was born into humble surroundings, she was called by God to be the mother of the Son of God. She affirmed her obedience to the call of God, and lived out her vocation throughout her entire life. Mary, the mother of Jesus, our Blessed Mother is the true model of motherhood.
Our nation is consecrated to Mary. As we continue to face the ongoing effects of the pandemic of the coronavirus, the president of USSCB, Archbishop José H. Gomez has announced that the U.S. bishops will join the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on May 1 in renewing the consecration of the two nations to the care of our Blessed Mother. When you read this bulletin, we might have passed the time of consecration. We will be joining with Archbishop José H. Gomez and other Bishop to renew the consecration on May 1st at 2 p.m. central time. Let us continue to ask the intercession of our Mother for our life, especially this time of great need.
I don’t know the origin of the story but from two different priests the story of Regina Riley. Regina Riley’s story many parents can relate to. Then one Sunday morning she got the surprise of her life. Her two sons came in and sat across the aisle from her. Her heart was bursting with joy and gratitude. Afterward, she asked her sons what brought them back to Church. And then her younger son told the story.
One Sunday morning, while vacationing in Colorado, they were driving down a country road and it was raining cats and dogs. And then suddenly they came upon this old man, trudging through the rain with no umbrella, he was soaking wet. And he walked with a noticeable limp. Yet he kept walking on down the road. The brothers stopped to pick him up.
It turned out that he was on his way to Sunday Mass and the Church was 3 miles down the road. So the two brothers picked him up and drove him to the Church. And since the rain was coming down so hard and they had nothing better to do they decided to wait for him and take him back after Mass. Then the two brothers decided they might as well go inside rather than wait outside.
As they listened to the Sunday readings and sat through the Eucharistic prayers and Holy Communion something happened to both of them, something moved them deeply. They told their mother it was like coming home after a long, tiring trip.
This story is very much like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and meeting up with a stranger, who was Jesus.
If we look at the Emmaus story closely, we can find similarity with Mass? They were thrilled to follow Jesus. After the crucifixion, they are disappointed. Then they had heard a rumor that he had raised, but that didn't seem reasonable.
There is a couple of remarkable points in Emmaus' story. These two disciples had their own stories of good times and bad times. Jesus walked with them explaining the scripture and stayed with and breaks the bread. Later they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" The disciples did not realize at the time that their hearts were burning within them, it was only later they realized this.
Another beautiful aspect of the Emmaus story is that Jesus’ whole life is present at that breaking of the bread. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, Jesus did break the bread and gave to them and said, “This is my Body.” But the completion of that sacrifice took place the next day at the Calvary. But at Emmaus, when Jesus shared the scripture with them, the sacrifice is already completed.
Every Mass we gather with our stories of success, joyful moments, and disappointment. We listen to the word of God and offer ourselves at the Mass. Through the scriptures and breaking of the bread, Jesus nourishes us and sends us back to our normal life. The two disciples encountered Jesus at the breaking of the bread in a personal way. The question, do we encounter him?
Now we have to keep social distancing for our safety, but do we take to find time to participate in Mass online or TV and receive him spiritually? This is the time we will be tested in our faith.
When Jesus was sharing the scripture with them, there were burning within them. When Jesus took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Let us ask God to give us all an Emmaus experience in our celebration of the Eucharist.
One night in 1935, Fiorello H. La Guardia, Mayor of New York City, showed up at Night Court in the poorest ward of the city. He dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench. One case involved an elderly woman who was caught stealing bread to feed her grandchildren. La Guardia said, "I've got to punish you. Ten dollars or ten days in jail." As he spoke, he threw $10 into his hat. He then fined everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a city "where an old woman had to steal bread so that her grandchildren should not starve." The hat was passed around, and the woman left the courtroom with her fine paid and an additional $47.50
The second Sunday of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday. In the second part of today’s Gospel, we see doubting Thomas. In the first part, Jesus said to his disciples, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Jesus empowered his disciples to become the vehicle of his mercy.
God sends people to remind us of his mercy. St. Faustina wrote in her dairy, “God Said to me, in the old covenant I sent prophets willingly thunderbolts of my people. Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching human kind, I desire to heal it…”
St. John Paul II has a great role in spreading the message of Divine Mercy. On the 30th of April, 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter, St. Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist in Saint Peter’s Square and proceeded to the canonization of Blessed Sister Faustina.
There are two parts to the message of Divine Mercy: devotion and being merciful. Marion Fathers came up with the acronym for the Divine Mercy celebration: FINCH and ABC. FINCH: F-Feast of Divine Mercy, I-image of Divine Mercy, N-novena of Divine Mercy, C-chaplet of Divine Mercy, H-hour of Divine Mercy.
What is ABC? A - Ask for God’s Mercy. B - Be merciful. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. C - Completely trust in Jesus.
Magnificat, prayer book, quote for the reading of the day from St. Faustina’s dairy. She prays, “O Lord, I want to be completely transformed into your mercy, and to be your living reflection…
Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearance, but look for what is beautiful in neighbors' souls and come to their rescue.
Help me O Lord, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbor’s needs and not indifferent to their pains and moaning’s.
Help me O Lord that my tongue may be merciful so that I should never speak negatively of neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness to all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the most difficult and toilsome tasks.
Help me, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness…
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful, so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor… May your mercy, O Lord, rest upon us.”
Pope Francis continues to emphasize the message of Mercy. During the year of mercy, Pope Francis said in one of his homilies, “Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion.”
The message of The Divine Mercy is simple: God loves us – all of us. The Divine Mercy devotion should lead us to share that mercy with one another. Remember: A - Ask for His Mercy. B - Be merciful. C - Completely trust in Jesus.
He is Risen! Alleluia!!
A couple of years ago I had the privilege to go to a pilgrimage to Holy Land. We had the privilege to make the Way of the Cross to Calvary and visits where Jesus was crucified and buried. We celebrated Mass at the Church of Holy Sepulcher. It was a faith filed moment. Calvary is not a huge hill, considering where Jesus went to pray or where He transfigured, Calvary is a small one. Why? I don’t think Romans want to climb the huge hill to kill somebody. They chose Calvary for their own convenience. For Jesus, it is not just walking up the hill. He was scourged, crowned with thorns and carrying the cross. He was carrying our burdens. Jesus’ crucifixion site and Jesus’ tomb are in the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
At Easter Vigil, the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we read the creation story. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read an Easter Vigil, “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” Jesus on the Easter Sunday morning does a new creation, brought new life.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary brought spices to anoint the body of Jesus. Can you imagine when you walk into a tomb, fully expecting to see a dead body, and you see instead someone alive and well—someone different than the man who was buried there! Today we celebrate Easter. He is Risen!
This Easter experience is a past event, a present reality, and future hope. And we have this faith. This faith flows from our Easter experience. The death of the Lord effected a transformation of reality, a new creation. He was raised up.
Easter is a celebration of present reality. The reality is that Jesus lives! Not that Jesus died and rose again in the past, but that Jesus lives among us and within us right here, and right now. This is our Easter proclamation. We experience his presence in our lives in many beautiful ways. He is among us and within us when we are together as a community. He is here in the proclamation of the scripture for he is the very Word of God. We experience his real presence in the sacraments. The water that poured at the baptism is God's life poured into that person. When the sacred chrism put on the foreheads of the confirmed is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit that comes upon them empowering them to lead others to Christ. When you receive communion we receive Jesus Christ, his very life.
Easter is the celebration of future hope. This future hope is that we will all share in the fullness of the New Life. When we are baptized we are given a share of the Resurrection of the Lord, we become a new creation. Easter is the celebration of hope. Our hope is that we will share in the fullness of the New Life Jesus won for us through His suffering and death. It is our hope in Christ that helps us endure challenges like the coronavirus. The coronavirus has brought the pain of sickness, uncertainties, and confusion, but our faith gives us hope, beyond this pain and struggles, Easter Sunday tells us there is hope. The fullness of hope and happiness is Eternal Life.
All public celebration of the Mass and other services are canceled until further notice. But you are invited to join in online. During Holy Week all the services will be live-streamed. You can watch on Facebook or you can go YouTube and search for Fr. Shaji Joseph Pazhukkathara. When you watch the first time, please subscribe, it will automatically send you notifications. Let us keep distance physically for our safety, stay closer in our prayer, especially Holy Week celebrations.
Max Lucado, in his book, And the Angels Were Silent, reminds us that each of us has got a donkey that the Lord needs. He writes: Sometimes I get the impression that God wants me to give him something and sometimes I don't give it because I don't know for sure, and then I feel bad because I've missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don't give it because I'm too selfish. And other times, too few times, I hear him and I obey him and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other times I wonder if my little deeds today will make a difference in the long haul.
We are towards the end of the Lenten journey. A question to ask ourselves, how is it going? The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday and we enter into the Holy Week, and welcome Jesus into our lives, asking him to allow us a share in his suffering, death, and resurrection. In order to receive a new life, there is need for a death to happen. Death and resurrection happen in our day to day life.
On Holy Thursday there is a Chrism Mass in Cathedral Churches because it is a solemn observance of Christ's institution of the Eucharist and priesthood. In order to make the opportunity for most priests and laity to attend this Mass, the Bishop may celebrate prior to the holy week, but this year it is going to be later due to our present situation. At this Chrism Mass, the bishop blesses the Holy Oils.
The Holy Thursday liturgy in the parish communities, celebrated in the evening because Passover began at sundown. After the Holy Thursday evening Mass the Blessed Sacrament carried in solemn procession to the flower-bedecked Altar of Repose, where it will remain 'entombed' until the communion service on Good Friday. And finally, there is the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the people during the night, just as the disciples stayed with the Lord during His agony on the Mount of Olives before the betrayal by Judas. Again this year, we won't have any procession. Blessed Sacrament will remain in the Tabernacle. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.
Holy Week can become "holy” by active participation in the Holy Week liturgies. This year again we have limitations for active participation. But spiritually it could be more wanting to be there and join in the online celebration. The celebration of liturgy reminds our life. Holy Thursday institution of Eucharist Jesus said to his disciples, “This is my body broken for you; this is my blood and shed for you” and we see on Good Friday that sacrifice is completed on the cross. He broke himself for us and fed us. This is also the week when we should lighten the burden of Christ’s passion as daily experienced by the needy people through our corporal and spiritual works of mercy; break and share.
Good Friday we start nine days of the novena for Divine Mercy Sunday. Good Friday we see Jesus opened his heart on the Cross poured his love and mercy for each one of us. Let us look at the cross and prepare this week for Easter!
I take this opportunity to thank all those who mailed or dropped off contribution envelopes. We need to pay the bill, prepare for the future. Your generosity makes a difference. I won't see you for some time, but let us be united in prayer. Have a blessed Holy Week!
We all experience two kinds of thirst in life. The first kind of thirst is horizontal, our desire for things on earth: food, drink, companionship, fun, entertainment, a nice house, a good income, success at work or school and many more.
The second kind of thirst is vertical, a deeper desire built into our nature: a desire for meaning and purpose. But unlike horizontal thirst, our vertical thirst cannot be satisfied by our own efforts. Only God himself can satisfy it.
On the third Sunday of Lent, we see in the first reading the Gospel uses the symbol of water to refer to our relationship with God. Just as water in the desert was life-giving for the wandering Israelites, the water of true, loving relationship with Jesus is life-giving for those who accept him as Lord and Savior, like the woman at the well.
In the first reading, Moses was leading Israelites out of Egypt from slavery. While they were thirsty in the desert, they started to grumble against Moses and tested God by saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?” God told Moses that he will be standing on the rock and Moses has to strike the rock and he will provide them water and satisfy the thirst. This place was called Massah and Meribah, which means the place of test and the place of quarrel.
In the Gospel, Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and asked for water. Jews and Samaritans were not on good terms. So a Samaritan woman was surprised to see Jesus, a Jew, asking her for water. Normally women would go fetch water in the morning or in the evening when it was not too hot. But she came to fetch water at noon. She may be trying to avoid the crowd. Jesus reaches out to her and walks with her and leads her to faith. Jesus reveals himself as the source of Living Water.
When Jacob came back to his father’s land, and met Esau and lived in Shechem. In the book of Genesis, chapter 33:19, we read Jacob bought a piece of land for a hundred pieces of money and lived there. Samaritan women and Jesus met at Jacob’s well. Here two strangers met for the first time, but as the conversation continues, women started to ask questions and get to know Jesus. She asked Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Once she found Messiah, the Christ, the true Living Water, she couldn’t wait to tell everyone. She left the jar, went to the town and brought the people to Jesus. We see a true missionary.
The liturgy makes use of the symbol of water to refer to our relationship with God. It represents God’s Spirit which comes to us in Baptism. The water that Jesus promises is closely linked to conversion and the forgiveness of sin. In the second reading, Saint Paul asserts that, as the savior of mankind, Jesus poured the living water of the gift of his Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Samaritan woman, in the Gospel, once embraced the faith, Jesus, the living water, becomes a missionary who brings others to Jesus. Once she had a life-changing experience, she couldn’t hold it for herself.
A priest was ministering to a man on his deathbed. "Renounce Satan!" said the priest. "No," said the dying man. "I say, renounce the devil and his works!" "No," the man repeats. "And why not, I ask you in the name of all that is holy?" "Because," said the dying man, "I want to wait until I see where I'm heading before I start annoying anybody."
Do you think there is an evil spirit in the world? Yes, there is. This weekends reading invites us to reflect on our daily life and its challenges. Are we tempted to do…..or to say….or to see….or to listen….? If so you proved yourself to be a human being. But Lent invites us to repent and receive grace to embrace a new life. Lent is a time to set aside tendencies of our mind and focus on Jesus.
St. John Paul II writes in his theology of the body, in the beginning, God created Adam and Eve, gave them a perfect world to live. The relationship was so perfect in love. God blessed them with the gift of caring for each other and for all God’s creation. The first man and woman joined in love, a union in which they were “naked without shame.” There was no need for shame or embarrassment because they were perfect in love. As we read in the first reading, they lost the unity, peace, and perfection of love as soon as they fell in the temptation and sinned.
In the Gospel, we read today, the temptation of Jesus. If we look at the life of Jesus, it is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In the Book of Exodus, Moses led Israelites through the Red Sea and wandered in the desert, and was tempted for forty years before they reached the Promised Land. The new Moses: Jesus, after the Baptism, he came out of Jordan River and led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The Israelites fall in the temptations, but Jesus brings victory over the temptation.
In the desert, the devil tries to tempt Jesus by quoting the Bible passage. On the other hand, Jesus faces the temptations by quoting Bible passages. Each time Jesus says, it is written…if we look at those Words we can see them in Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 8. These two chapters of Deuteronomy gives us the Word of God while Israelites were in the desert. It will be a good reading to understand the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew chapter 4.
In the desert, Jesus was hungry, and the first temptation: the devil tempts Jesus to use his power for himself. We are all tempted to selfishness. At every moment we must listen to God’s Word, seek God’s will. Jesus says, “Man does not live on bread alone.” Our deeper needs are for more than food and drink.
In the second temptation, the devil tells, throw yourselves down and let Father send angels to rescue you. Are we tempted to pray to God something like this? Jesus’ answer to this temptation, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
That third temptation the Lord endured is the temptation we all have to accumulate possessions and power as though these gifts from God will make our lives happy. What/who has first place in our life? God or our possessions?
The essence of evil is a turning from God. St. Augustine speaks about it as a flight to nothingness. For God is the source of all that is. Evil perverts His Creation so that instead of the good things He creates leading us to Him, we use His gifts to run away from Him.
Our mind has the tendency to run away from God. It has the addictive pattern of thinking. Lent is time to give up our head and give in to our heart. We need to set aside our mind for some time to be with God.