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.
Lent, a season of grace!
A little boy had just returned home from an Ash Wednesday church service. The little girl from next door asked him what the smudge was on his forehead. He replied, "It's Ash Wednesday." "What's Ash Wednesday?" she asked. "Oh," he replied, "It's when Christians begin their diet."
We talk a lot about healthy food; in the end, we end up eating all kinds of junk food. Lent invites us to keep a diet for spiritual health, which helps our physical health too.
On Ash Wednesday, the Church begins forty days of Lenten journey of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We can see in the Bible the number forty is repeated. Genesis chapter 6-9 we see, it took 40 days for sinfulness to drown in the flood before a new creation could inherit the earth. It took 40 years for the generation of slaves to die before the freeborn could enter the Promised Land. For 40 days Moses and Elijah fasted and prayed to prepare themselves for a life's work. Jesus fasted and prayed forty nights and days in the desert before the public ministry. And he faced the tempter in the desert.
In the first reading on Ash Wednesday we read from the book of Joel, “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning…” Lent asks us to come closer to God. The Gospel of Matthew tells us the means to reach the goal: Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Francis writes in his Apostolic Exhortation, Joy of the Gospel, "whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God's voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades." He continues that, "We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own."
Through the forty days of Lenten exercise of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we spring-clean our lives; sharpen our senses to be open to God and others. Lent helps us to recognize that our identity and mission are rooted in Jesus' dying and rising. Lent is a time to fast from certain things, but also a time to feast on LOVE.
Forty days of prayer is a time to reflect on the part we play in God’s one human family. Part of that prayer journey may include praying our prayer card, which is a prayer for our cluster community. Forty days of fasting is a time to remove the obstacles getting in the way of loving God and our neighbor. Forty days of almsgiving is a time to experience the spirit of poverty, and come closer to those who are in need.
What can I do this Lent? 1. Take a few minutes for daily prayer (Don’t forget to pray our prayer card). 2. Find time to attend Mass every Sunday. And if you go every Sunday, try to find time for weekday Mass at least once or twice? Or go for the Stations of the Cross. 3. Pray for one or two of your friends/families each week and invite them for the weekend Mass and come with them for Mass.
Prayer Card: Please pick up a prayer card and pray this prayer every day. We will be praying every Mass this Prayer. Let us pray for our cluster community.
Two sisters spent the day fighting. That evening they prepared for bed, still mad at each other. As usual, each knelt by the side of her bed for their prayers. "Dear God," the 8-year-old began, "Bless Daddy and Mommy, bless our cat and dog." Then she stopped. Her mother gently prodded, "Didn’t you forget somebody?" She glared across the bed at her 6-year-old sister and added, "And, oh yes, God, bless my ex-sister."
We just celebrated Valentine’s Day. I am sure everybody talked about and celebrated lots of LOVE. Today’s readings talk about LOVE. It challenges us to choose freely and wisely in order to observe the laws given us by a loving and caring God.
Ben Sira, the author says in the Book of Sirach, tells us that we are engulfed with the mercy and love of God. He is all around us and in us. He knows what is going on within us. He gives us a choice: choose Him or reject Him. If we choose Him, we live. If we reject Him, we die. God has given the power to choose.
The Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday. Gospel of Matthew chapter five started with Sermon on the Mount. Today’s Gospel starts with a statement “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill…whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”
When evangelist wrote the Gospel, his audience was the Jewish converts. Jews had 613 laws and sub laws. Matthew tells them, Jesus came to bring the old law to its natural fulfillment in the new. In another way he says, he came to complete the law. They knew the Ten Commandments. Jesus enhances them and invites them and us to integrate law and love together. Another dimension of Jesus teaching in the Gospel is an invitation to clean up our inner thoughts, so the external actions will be more profound and meaningful. In other words, Jesus tells us to go deeper than just avoiding occasions of sin. They tell us that God sees what is going on within us. We have to do all we can to be sure that we treasure His presence within us.
We are sons and daughters of God. Every person has dignity. Every one of us is chosen by God. We cannot sacrifice the freedom we have in Jesus Christ to the evil of the world. We cannot allow ourselves to be enslaved by sin. Jesus came to free us from sin. His deepest love is expressed on the Cross- a sacrificial love.
Someone asked Mother Teresa, "What will we be judged on?" She responded, "I believe that when we die and the time comes for us to be judged, God will not ask how many good things we did in our lives, but only with how much love we did them."
Anointing During the Mass: Pope John Paul II designated February 11th Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, as World Day of the Sick, “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering and reminding us to see in our sick brothers and sisters the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying and rising, achieved the salvation of humankind”. In our cluster, we will be praying for people who are sick among us and also all those who work in the field of Health Care on the weekend of February 22/23, 2020. At these Masses, there will an opportunity to receive the anointing of the Sick. Thank you.
Historians today consider Abraham Lincoln to be one of the greatest, presidents of this country. However, that greatness was not evident to all during his lifetime. Lincoln received a large amount of bitter – and often contradictory – criticism.
To his critics, Lincoln told a story about a traveler who got caught in a terrible thunderstorm. The night was totally dark and the flashes of lightning provided the only clues to the path. One bolt struck quite close and the crash of thunder brought the man down to his knees. He was not a praying man, but he made a short fervent (eager) petition, “Oh Lord! If it’s all the same to you, give me a little more light and a little less noise.”
All of us can identify with that prayer. We live in a world of a lot of noise. It can sometimes confuse and disorient us. What we need is less noise and a bit more light. Today’s first reading, as well as the Gospel, tells us how we are to be light and salt to the wider world.
The Book of Prophet Isaiah is divided into three sections. Today’s reading is from the third section of Isaiah which witnesses the struggle and hope for blessing of the post-Babylonian exilic community. They are back in the homeland. Their efforts to survive created a deep division in the community. It was the survival of the strongest, and the poor and homeless were ignored. In this contest prophet Isaiah told them to “share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, and clothe the naked. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). But elsewhere in John 8:12 Jesus says of himself, “I am the light of the world.” Today’s Gospel is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. In the Old Testament Moses gave Ten Commandments in the Old Testaments. In the New Testament Jesus gave a new law at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is talking about the flesh and blood embodiment of the light. As long as he is physically present in the world he is the light of the world, but when he is no longer physically present his followers now assume the role of being the light of the world.
As a light, we are called to show the way. Without light, we bump into each other and fall into the ditch. But light says: “Here is the road, take it; here is danger, avoid it.” Light illumines and reveals it. Without light and salt, the world would be in very bad shape, uninteresting and impossible to live in. With light and salt, the world becomes a safer and better place. It is our duty as Christians to make the world a better place.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta did all she had done out of love and it brightened the whole world. It was this love that moved people so deeply. Commenting on this point, former British TV star Malcolm Muggeridge said in effect: “I can’t tell you how much I owe to Mother Teresa. She showed me Christianity in action. She showed me love in action. She showed me how the love one person can start a tidal wave that can spread across the world.”
Indeed Mother Teresa shows how can be the light of the world. Mother Teresa didn’t set out to pare her light before people. She simply set out to love. And in loving, she became ‘a light for the whole world’.