Sunday, March 30, 2014

God never tires of forgiving us, Pope reflects

Pope Francis receives the sacrament of Confession at a penance service held at St. Peter's Basilica, March 28, 2014. Credit: ANSA/OSSERVATORE ROMANO.
.- Pope Francis dedicated his homily at Friday’s Mass to the mercy of God, emphasizing that while God is firm in his call for conversion, he is always waiting to receive the sinner with open arms.

“The God of mercy; he does not tire of forgiving. We are the ones who tire in asking for forgiveness, but he does not tire,” the Pope observed in his March 28 Mass.

Speaking to those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse chapel, the Roman Pontiff began by calling attention to the day’s first reading, taken from Hosea, in which the prophet encourages the people of Israel to return to the true God, and revealing to them the Lord’s desire to make them prosper and bear fruit.

From this book we are able to see how God always speaks to his people with tenderness, the Pope reflected.

Even when God is strict in his invitation to convert, Pope Francis observed, his words always include “this loving longing” which reflects the father’s words to the prodigal son, “Come back. It is time to come back home.”

“This is the heart of our Father. God is like that: he does not tire, he does not tire. And God did this for many centuries, with so much apostasy… among the people. And he always returns, because our God is a God who waits.”

Recalling how “Adam left paradise with a punishment but also with a promise,” the Roman Pontiff explained that “the Lord is faithful to his promise because he cannot deny himself.”

“He is faithful. And, in this way, he waited for all of us, throughout all of history. He is the God who waits for us always.”

Shifting his thoughts to the parable of the prodigal son, the Pope noted how Luke’s Gospel reveals to us that the father was waiting for his son’s return and that he “went onto the terrace every day to see if his son would return. He waited.”

“When he saw him, he went out in haste and ‘threw himself on his neck,’” Pope Francis noted, emphasizing that although “the son had prepared some words to say,” his father “did not let him speak; his embrace covered his mouth.”

Observing how there are some who are far from the Church who might say, “But father, I have so many sins, I do not know if he will be happy,” Pope Francis echoed the words a priest might say in response, encouraging the person “But try!”

“If you want to know the tenderness of this Father, go to him and try. Then come and tell me.”

Noting that God will not tire of forgiving us our sins, the Pope said: “Seventy times seven, always.”
“Let us go forward with forgiveness,” Pope Francis stated, adding that “from a business point of view, the balance is negative. He always loses: he loses in the balance of things, but he wins in love.”

However, God “is the first to fulfill the commandment of love,” he noted, highlighting that “he loves and does not know how to do otherwise.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily by drawing attention to the miracles of healing which Jesus performed, explaining that the curing of the sick is “a sign of the great miracle that every day the Lord does with us when we have the courage to get up and go to him.”

When a sinner returns to God, he does not celebrate “like the banquet of the rich man, who had the poor Lazarus at his door,” the Roman Pontiff observed, but rather, “he holds a banquet, like the father of the prodigal son.”

Each person who has the courage to approach God “will find the joy” of his feast, the Pope stated, praying that all would “think of our Father, who waits for us always and who always forgives us and celebrates our return.”

Homily for Today

It is amazing how there is always a passage in the Gospel Reading that touches the heart in a special way. Today, I was touched by the Sacred Words, "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work." [Jn. 9:4] This verse blends beautifully with the Lenten Season, reminding us of our obligation to prepare ourselves for the liturgical celebration of the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus that is quickly approaching. More will be said on this later on.

Today's First Reading [1 Sam. 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13] gave us the account of the anointing of David as the king of Israel. The Holy Scriptures provide us with two accounts of David's association to Saul. The first account portrays David as a musician who was brought into the life of Saul to pacify him. [1 Sam. 16:14-23] The second account portrays David as a competent warrior who could be very useful to Saul. [1 Sam. 17:12-20]

In those days, Saul ruled over Israel as their king. Why then did God ask the prophet Samuel to anoint David as king while the Israelites had a living king who was ruling over them? It was because king Saul turned his back to God, not carrying out the Divine commands. [1 Sam. 15:11] Therefore God rejected Saul as king over His people.

Now Samuel was commissioned to go to Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint God's newly chosen king. [1 Sam. 16:1] As we heard, all the sons of Jesse who were present in the household passed before Samuel. None of them were chosen by God. While Samuel would have chosen one of them because of his appearance, Samuel was reminded by God that a calling is not based on one's outward appearance. God looks on the heart of the person. [1 Sam. 16:7]

Consequently, Samuel asked Jesse if all of his sons were present. He quickly learned that the youngest one was missing. He was keeping the sheep. Samuel immediately sent for him. [1 Sam. 16:11]

When David came in, the Lord told Samuel to rise and anoint him. For he was the chosen one. [1 Sam. 16:12] In obedience to God, Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers. From that day on, the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David. [1 Sam. 16:13]

The lesson that we learn from this reading is that God is free to elect whoever He chooses. Divine wisdom far surpasses human wisdom. Human wisdom is limited to what it sees and what it hears. Divine wisdom searches the soul, knowing every thoughts of the mind. Divine wisdom knows those who are fearful of the Lord, those who are humble, those who will serve the Lord in obedience. It knows those who will live as children of the Light.

Today's Second Reading [Eph. 5:8-14] reminded us to live as children of the Light. It presented the contrast between those who live a Christian life versus the pagans. The Christians were compared to the light versus the darkness. Why did Saint Paul feel it necessary to remind the Ephesians of this truth? It was because some men had a tendency of allowing themselves to be influenced by Gnostic teachings. These individuals considered themselves enlightened and above all considerations of good or evil. Surely, pride must have taken over their reasoning.

Paul reminded the Ephesians that once, they were in the darkness. But now, in the Lord, they are in the Light and as such, they must live as children of light. [Eph. 5:8] How do we know the children of the Light? It is by their fruit. The fruit of the Light is all that is good and right and true. [Eph. 5:9] The children of the Light try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. [Eph. 5:10]

Not only must the children of the Light not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but also, they have an obligation to expose them. [Eph. 5:11] If something is not good, not right or not true, it must be exposed. For no one can serve two masters. He will be loyal to one and uncommitted to the other. No one can serve the Light and darkness at the same time.

The Ephesians were reminded that it was shameful to even mention what some people do secretly. [Eph. 5:12] Such a behaviour promotes gossip. It gives the appearance that sins such as adultery, promiscuity, divorce, etc... are permissible because these have become the norms of society. It does not mean that because a high percentage of people are committing adultery that adultery is holy and permitted by God. A sin is a sin, and it must be exposed. On this subject, the Book of Isaiah states, "If favour is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness they deal perversely and do not see the majesty of the Lord." [Is. 26:10]

Paul completed his writing by stating, "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." [Eph. 5:14] These words echo a similar passage in the Old Testament where it states, "Arise, shine; for your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." [Is. 60:1] In other words, it is time to snap into reality and to embrace a spiritual mind by doing what is holy. Christ does not shine on those who remain as sleepers, refusing to rise from the dead.

Today's Gospel Reading also spoke of the Light. [Jn. 9:1-41] As we heard, it was the story of the man who was physically blind since birth. This reading reminds us that by nature, we are all born spiritually blind. Our blindness ends when we were admitted into the Body of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. By remaining righteousness through the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist, we have maintained our sight. Should we choose to neglect our blessed hope and shipwreck, surely, we will quickly find ourselves blinded by the darkness that surrounds us.

Returning to the Gospel, as Jesus was walking along, He and His disciples came across a blind man. (v.1) Seeing man, the disciples asked Jesus why the man had been afflicted with blindness? (v.2) Was the man born blind because of his sin or because of the sin of his parents? Now some will ask, "If the man was born blind, how could he have sinned before having been born?" It is impossible! In this case, it is believed that the disciples reasoned that since God has the foreknowledge of all things to come, the blindness was afflicted upon the man for a sin that he was to commit during his lifetime. In other words, God punished the man before his sin was committed. This was not a common Jewish belief. The Jewish people believed that every affliction was the result of a sin that had been committed. And in some cases, the sins of the parents could fall on their descendants. [Ex. 20:5; Deut. 5:9]

Jesus did not agree with such beliefs. Jesus said, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him." (v.3) The reason why the man was born blind was to glorify God through the manifestation of a miraculous cure. Without knowing it, the man was to become an instrument of God's power.

Jesus continued, "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." [Jn. 9:4-5] From these words, three things are made known. First of all, through the miraculous cure of the blind man, Jesus was identifying Himself as the Divine Light. Secondly, through the words, "we must work," Jesus was reminding His disciples that it was also their duty to perform the works of God. Thirdly, by stating, "while it is day," Jesus was indicating that the grace of God was at work while the Divine Light was present, therefore facilitating the conversion of those who were present. When the grace and the Light of God are no longer present, nor the light that is being carried by Christians, there is spiritual darkness.

Having said the aforementioned words, Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes. He then told the blind man to go and wash himself in the pool of Siloam, which means "sent." The blind man obeyed and returned with his sight having been restored. [Jn. 9:6-7]

Imagine going to a doctor to have your eyes tested and the doctor spits in his hands, mixes it with something, applies it to your eyes and then tells you to go and wash yourself. I think 99% of us would not return to this doctor, finding him pretty gross. Why then did the people not react when Jesus did this? It was because in those days, it was a common practice. [Mk. 7:33, 8:23] The people believed that spittle had the properties of medicine.

During that situation, the actions of Jesus were symbolic of the Sacrament of Baptism. The original word that was translated into English to say "smear" literally meant "anointed." Since the earliest days of Christian history, anointing had been part of the ritual of Baptism.

Continuing with the biblical story, within hours, those who had known the beggar while he was blind had become divided among themselves. Some were convinced that the beggar had been healed while others rejected the truth, rationalizing that the man had to be a look-alike. [Jn. 9:8-9] Over and over, they asked the cured man what happened to him. He explained in details what the man named Jesus had done and commanded him to do before his sight was restored. [Jn. 9:10-11] It is interesting to note here the spiritual growth of the man who was previously blind. In his present reference to Jesus, he calls Him, "the man called Jesus."

Following this, the cured man was taken to the Pharisees (v. 13) who interrogated him. The man recounted again what had happened to him. (v. 15) Now at this point, the Pharisees should have been jumping with joy for this man could see for the first time in his entire life. But no, this was not the case! Instead, they were criticizing Jesus for having healed on a Sabbath. (v. 14) In their opinion, Jesus could not be of God because He had not observed the Sabbath. Contrary to this, others refused to believe that Jesus was a sinner because of the great power that He had manifested. (v.16) Once more, the people were divided.

So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened." He said, "He is a prophet." (v.17) Note here that the cured man no longer says, "It is the man called Jesus." He now refers to Jesus as a prophet. Here we see the progressive spiritual growth of the man.

The Pharisees did not believe the man and so they called his parents. (v.18) Having been questioned on the subject, his parents affirmed that the man was their son who had been born blind. (v. 20) Fearing that they may be excommunicated from the Temple for confessing that Jesus was the Messiah, (v. 23) they said very little, indicating that their son was of age and he could speak for himself. (v. 21) Here we learn that religious persecution is nothing new. Even in those days, those who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah were rejected by the authorities. From this it can be concluded that in those days, many must have believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah and they spoke openly about it.

For the second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner." {v. 24) "Give glory to God" means "tell the truth." By telling the truth, the man was indeed glorifying God. But the truth spoken by the man for the glory of God was a truth that the Pharisees were denying. Frustrated with the Pharisees, the man said, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." (v.25)

Again, the Pharisees asked, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" (v. 26) The cured man answered, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" (v. 27) At this point, it is obvious that the man was tired of debating the subject with the Pharisees on the grounds of what is a sinful violation of the Sabbath. Rather, he redirected the subject to the one truth, that Jesus had done a work that was apparently miraculous. Therefore, can they claim Jesus to be a sinner? As can be perceived from this, as light does not produce darkness, a sinner could not have performed such a great miracle.

When the blind man asked the Pharisees if they wanted to become disciples of Jesus, he was reminding the Pharisees that Jesus was gathering disciples despite their efforts to stop him. This must have enraged them.

Following this, the man became quite bold in his answers, giving a perfect example of how Christian should testify fearlessly to the truth. (v. 30-33) Referring to biblical passages, [Is. 1:15, 59:2, Mic. 3:4, Prov. 15:29] the cured man logically proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus could not be a sinner. He had to be from God. That was the limit! The Pharisees excommunicated the man from the Temple. (v. 34)

The aforementioned shows that through faith in Jesus, the eyes of the blind can be opened, both, physically and spiritually. Contrary to this, while some may see the obvious, even possess unquestionable evidence to the fact, unless they have a sincere heart, they shall continue to remain blind.

When Jesus heard that the man had been driven out of the Temple, he went and found him. Jesus asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" (v. 35) To this, the man answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." (v. 36) Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." (v. 37) The cured man said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshipped Jesus. (v. 38) At this point, referring to Jesus as "Lord" which means "God," [Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:11] the man had achieved the fullness of knowledge as to the true identity of the Son of Man.

Then, Jesus stated, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." (v. 39) While Jesus has come to judge those who reject the truth, many shall condemn themselves. For some falsely believing that they possess the light, have and continue to reject the revelation of God that was manifested through Jesus Christ.

When some Pharisees heard the words of Jesus, they said, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" (v. 40) To this, Jesus answered, "If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains." (v. 41) In other words, he who is blind cannot be guilty of sin for not knowing the truth for he is unaware of the truth. But he who is aware of and rejects the truth, claiming that his way is the way, he is guilty of sin. It is only when one realizes the extent of his blindness that there is hope of seeing the light. But what makes a case hopeless is when a person possesses self-satisfaction.

In conclusion, "We must work the works of him who sent (us) while it is day; night is coming when no one can work." [Jn. 9:4] As the blind man confessed Christ before others, through our Baptism we were called to plead the cause of the Light. If we are rejected because of our spiritual calling, let us rejoice, for it is Christ Himself Who is being rejected through our testimony. In the end, the words of Jesus shall be fulfilled, "For judgment I have come into the world." [Jn. 9:39]

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Reading 11 SM 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A

The LORD said to Samuel:
“Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, 
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, 
Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, 
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel: 
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, 
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see, 
because man sees the appearance 
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, 
but Samuel said to Jesse, 
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
Jesse replied,
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him; 
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold 
and making a splendid appearance.
The LORD said,
“There—anoint him, for this is the one!”
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, 
anointed David in the presence of his brothers; 
and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R/ (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2 EPH 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness, 
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light, 
for light produces every kind of goodness 
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; 
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention 
the things done by them in secret; 
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”

Gospel JN 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, 
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned; 
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him, 
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, 
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, “
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”
He replied,
“The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’
So I went there and washed and was able to see.”
And they said to him, “Where is he?”
He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again, 
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe 
that he had been blind and gained his sight 
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
“Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?”
His parents answered and said, 
“We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself.”
His parents said this because they were afraid
of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed 
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
“He is of age; question him.”

So a 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 replied,
“If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
So they said to him,
“What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?”
He answered them,
“I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
They ridiculed him and said, 
“You are that man’s disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses, 
but we do not know where this one is from.”
The man answered and said to them,
“This is what is so amazing, 
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners, 
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, And do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said, 
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he.”
He 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.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this 
and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
Jesus said to them,
“If you were blind, you would have no sin; 
but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ontario declares April 2 John Paul II Day

Written by Ruane Remy, The Catholic Register
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 12:16
Ontario declares April 2 John Paul II Day
Toronto - Ontario will make celebration of the life of Pope John Paul II on annual event following passage of legislation naming a day in his honour.
April 2 is now Pope John Paul II Day after a private member's bill received the full support of the Ontario legislature on Mar. 17 and royal assent just nine days later.
The Pope died April 2, 2005. He will be canonized along with Pope John XXIII on April 27.
Liberal MPP Dipika Damerla sponsored the private member's bill. Since May 2013, Damerla had periodically introduced the bill, asking for unanimous consent from the house to move it forward.
Her efforts came on the heels of attempts by Conservative MP Frank Klees, beginning in 2007, to have April 2 as a day to honour the pontiff.
With a minority government, to get such a bill passed, co-operation from the other side was key, said Damerla. She had to barter support among her legislative colleagues, supporting other MPPs on some issues and asked them to support her on this.
"So I think it's a combination of persistence and a little bit of luck and timing," she said.
Damerla says she worked overtime to ensure the bill would pass in time to ensure Pope John Paul II would be celebrated this year. This will be the first piece of legislation to go forward in her name.
"Private member's bills have a low chance of becoming law, and that's why we've seen so many people introduce bills like this," she said.
Damerla says she had spoken to Klees before taking up his cause as her own, and he congratulated her on the bill's success.
Damerla serves Mississauga East-Cooksville, a riding where Catholics make up a large, if not the largest, faith group. The Polish community is also prominent in the riding, said Damerla.
"So when I was speaking to them, I got a sense of how important Pope John Paul II is."
She added: "I am not Catholic, but I've always felt that once you're elected you represent the aspirations and the sentiments of your community."
Her riding is close to the John Paul II Polish Cultural Centre near St. Maximilian Kolbe parish.
This April would be a significant month to start celebrating Pope John Paul II Day, said Damerla, because Blessed John Paul II will be canonized on April 27 and 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe. The Polish pope played a key role in communism's demise.
"His pious leadership helped provide Poles with hope, courage and resilience in the struggle against communist oppression," she said.
Damerla calls Pope John Paul II "a universal figure and spiritual leader whose legacy is marked by his strong commitment to peace, equality, human rights and multi-faith dialogue and understanding." He was the only pope to have visited Ontario, which he did for World Youth Day 2002.
"Faith allows us to accomplish things that we would not otherwise be able to accomplish. It's that belief in something bigger than ourselves. Those millions of people, the pope is a powerful symbol of that faith and I am pleased we can have a day to commemorate that," said Damerla. "I would have been delighted if I could have done it last year, and I would be just as pleased if I could do it next year. The important thing is to get it done."

Prayer for Today

Lord, I believe in you. I believe that you have created me and redeemed me from sin. I believe that everything that is good in my life comes from you : my existence, my faith, my education, what virtues I have. I come to you today in prayer to place my life before you. I know that you are the source of all goodness in me. So often I wonder if I really know how to pray. I wonder how fruitful my prayer is. In the face of my misery I offer you the one thing I know I can offer: my humility before your majesty.

Lord, help me to be humble when I approach you in prayer

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Homily for Sunday

How are we to hear the Word of God unless there is someone to proclaim Him? [Rom. 10:14] Therefore, I proclaim what Jesus has spoken to us today, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to complete His work." [Jn. 4:34] Not only was the food of Jesus to do the Divine Will of our Heavenly Father, but it was also to complete His work, to persevere to the very end.

The Words of Jesus echo our present short-term perseverance. Entering the third week in Lenten Season, we are making every effort to persevere in our fasting, our penances and our prayers so we may obtain the strength that we need to overcome our sinful tendencies. By the grace of God, we shall achieve our personal goals so we may be one with Jesus as He is one with the Father. [Jn. 17:11]

Today's First Reading from the Book of Exodus [Ex. 17:3-7] was a prophetic picture of what was to come through Jesus Christ. It consisted of one of the three events found in the Old Testament that speak of people thirsting for water.

The first event took place in Mirah [Ex. 15:22-7] where Moses turned bitter water into sweet water. The second event, [Ex. 17:3- 7] the one that was read today, took place at Rephidim. Being without water, Moses was commanded by God to take the elders with him and to strike the rock with the staff. Then, miraculously, water came out of the rock. The third event took place at Kadesh [Numb. 20:2-13] where once more Moses was commanded by God to assemble the congregation and to command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. As biblical history tell us, Moses did not trust in the Lord. {Numb. 20:12] Because he struck the rock twice, he was punished and not allowed to enter the promised land.

In view of the above events, Moses was a type of Christ, both providing water to the people. On this subject, Saint Paul tells us, "Our ancestors all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness." [1 Cor. 10:4-5]

Water is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. On this subject, the Catholic Church teaches us, "The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As "by one Spirit we were all baptized," so we are also "made to drink of one Spirit." [1 Cor 12:13] Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified [Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8] as its source and welling up in us to eternal life." [Jn. 4:10-14, 7:38; Ex. 17:1-6; Is. 55:1; Zech. 14:8; 1 Cor. 10:4; Rev. 21:6; 22:17] (C.C.C. # 694)

Today's Second Reading [Rom. 5:1-2, 5-8] informs us that God's love was poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us through Christ. The Divine love of God assures salvation to those who are justified. Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [Rom. 5:1] Through peace with God, our reconciliation replaces our alienation that was caused by the disobedience of Adam.

We obtained our peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ alone because "there is only one Mediator between God and humankind" [1 Tim. 2:5] (C.C.C. # 956, 1544, 1546, 2574, 2593) in the Divine Plan of Salvation. No one is saved through his own good deeds. No one is saved by believing in God the Father alone. No is saved by his good friends. Nor is anyone saved by chasing private revelations. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone. "Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit." (C.C.C. # 667)

"Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it." [LG 14; cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5] (C.C.C. # 846)

Through the one Mediator, Jesus Christ, we have obtained access to the grace of God in which we stand. Consequently, we hope to share in the glory of God. "And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." [Rom. 5:5] As our faith is a free gift from God, so is our hope. These gifts are beyond ordinary natural powers. Therefore, as our faith relies on God, so does our hope.

"While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." [Rom. 5:6] While we were weak, we were unjustified. We were sinners, incapable of doing anything that could make us right before God. By the grace of God, we received the free gifts of faith, hope and charity that are instrumental in leading us towards salvation through Jesus Christ. (Note: We also need the Sacraments.)

During the Second Reading, Saint Paul said, "Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die." [Rom. 5:7] Here he corrected himself, showing his sense of humour. Maybe someone would die for a really good person. Maybe a father would give his life for a son. Maybe a man would give his life for his brother or a woman would give her life for her sister. But while such is possible, none of these self-sacrifices lead to salvation. For there is one Mediator between God and mankind, Jesus Christ Himself.

Today's Gospel Reading [Jn. 4:5-42] echoes the First Reading from the Book of Exodus. As we heard, Jesus promised to give us water that will become a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. [Jn. 4:14]

During the reading, we heard that Jesus and His disciples came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. [Jn. 4:5] In case some of you may try to locate the city Sychar, you will not be able to do so. The name "Sychar" is believed to be a corruption of the name "Sychem" (Shechem) which was near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. [Gen. 33:19, 48:22] Shechem is where the bones of Joseph were buried. [Jos. 24:32]

Tired of His journey, Jesus sat on the ground by Jacob's well. [Jn. 4:6] (Jacob's well is located between "Tell el-Balatah" and "Askar.") During that time, while the disciples had gone to the city to buy food, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. [Jn. 4:7-8] Jesus asked her to give Him water. At this point, the Samaritan woman said to Jesus, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" [Jn. 4:9] In those days, it was unheard of for a rabbi to speak to a woman in public, even worst for a Jew to request water from a Samaritan. The Jewish people considered the Samaritans to be unclean, this including their utensils for eating and drinking. Therefore it appears that Jesus was asking to drink from an unclean water jar? Yet, Jesus was not bothered a bit by such scruples.

Knowing the Samaritan woman's hesitation, Jesus told her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." [Jn. 5:10] What is the gift of God that Jesus was speaking about? It was Jesus Himself! But who was Jesus to the Samaritan woman at that moment? All she could see was a thirsty Jewish man who had been travelling.

And what was this living water that the thirsty Traveller was offering her? The Samaritan woman must have understood "living water" to mean running water versus water from a well or cistern water. But is this was Jesus was telling her? In the Old Testament, when a reference was made to "living water," it meant "water of life." It meant Divine vitality, revelation and wisdom. [Jer. 2:13; Zech. 14:8; Ezek. 47:9; Prov. 13:14, etc...]

As Nicodemus literally took the Words of Jesus when he was told that he had to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God, [Jn. 3:4- 6] the woman also literally took the Words of Jesus. Unable to logically understand Jesus, she said, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his children and his flocks drank from it?" [Jn. 3:11-12]

Since Jesus had no means of getting water out the well, where would He get his "living water" from? When considering how great Jacob was in the eyes of God and the people, and that he had no better source of water than the well that was present, how could Jesus offer to give a better water?

To her question, Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." [Jn. 3:13-4]

In Sirach 24:20-1, we read that he who drinks wisdom will thirst again. One could never satisfy the desire for wisdom. But, on the contrary, through the Sacrament of Baptism, the water that Jesus will give, will have the fountain of eternal life within him.

Understanding "living water" to mean never to thirst again, the Samaritan woman asked Jesus for some of it so she would never have to go back to the well to draw water. [Jn. 3:15] What followed was a conversion in which Jesus revealed to the woman that she had five husbands and that she was now living with another man. [Jn. 3:16- 8]

Jesus' reply to the request of the woman for living water was intended to show her that He possessed superhuman knowledge. This provided the woman with sufficient enlightment to perceive that the Words of Jesus must have had a greater meaning. Surprised, the woman said to Jesus, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet." [Jn. 3:19] Now, the woman no longer saw a Jewish man before her, but rather, a prophet.

This provided the woman with a perfect opportunity to settle a long standing controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans regarding the proper place of sacrificial worship. [Gen. 12:7, 33:20; Deut. 27:4] The woman said to Jesus, "Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." [Jn. 3:20]

To this, Jesus responded, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem." [Jn. 3:21] The response from Jesus indicated that soon, it will make no difference who is right or who is wrong. For "the Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." [Dei Filius: 3 DS 3008] Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries." (C.C.C. # 66)

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him." [Jn. 3:21-22] In other words, in Judaism, God's revelation was safeguarded. But the Samaritans, although they had good faith, they preserved the truth in a distorted form. Salvation came through the Jewish people. The proof was Jesus Himself, He being Jewish. Through Jesus was the fulfillment of the expected Messiah.

When Jesus said that "the hour is coming," He was referring to His glorification, the "hour" when His Church would be instituted. The final sacrifice will have been made, the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." [Jn. 3:24] These words are echoed in the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. "The first man, Adam, became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit." [1 Cor. 15:45] Christ is the life-giving Spirit in the sense that His actions are life-giving. God is Spirit in the sense that He gives the Spirit. Equally, God is light and love. [1 Jn. 1:5, 4:8] That is why the believers must worship God in "spirit and truth," in the truth as thought by the Spirit who guides and teaches.

At that moment, the woman indicated that she knew that the Messiah was coming and that He would proclaim all things to the people. [Jn. 3:25] She remembered the Words of God, "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command." [Deut. 18:18] Having perceived that Jesus was a prophet over and above being Jewish, the woman now suspected that He might be the promised Messiah. To this, Jesus answered, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you." [Jn. 3:26] Jesus affirmed the fulfillment of the words spoken through Isaiah, "Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I." [Is. 52:6]

During the Gospel Reading, we then heard that the disciples returned and were astonished that Jesus was speaking to a woman. Following that, the woman left and returned to the city, leaving behind her water jar. For she had no more need for it because she had come to the source of living water. Once in the city, the woman invited the people to come and see Jesus who told her everything that she had done. Her words echoed the words of Philip to Nathanael, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote." [Jn. 1:45]

In the meantime, the disciples were urging Jesus to eat some food. [Jn. 3:31] To this Jesus answered, "I have food to eat that you do not know about.

So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat? My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work." [Jn. 3:31-4] It is obvious that the disciples did not understand the full meaning of what Jesus was saying. The words of Jesus summed up His entire career. He came to do the will of His Father who sent Him, even to death on the Cross. In Jesus was found perfect obedience, to the last drop of blood.

The Gospel Reading ended by telling us that the people came from the city to hear Jesus. As they stated, "It is no longer because of what (the woman) said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world." [Jn. 3:42] Not only did the Samaritans come to believe, they also recognized the fulfillment of the Messiah in Jesus.

From today's readings, we are reminded that as children of God, as members of the Body of Christ, we too have been called to do the Divine Will of He who has called us to share in the life-giving Spirit through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism. As Jesus was called to complete His work, we too are called to complete our calling through our perseverance in the living faith. To persevere necessitates our ongoing reception of the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist as the means of maintaining our righteousness before the Lord God.

With the approach of Easter that commemorates the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we now, more than ever, have an obligation to reinstate our holiness through the Holy Sacraments that have been given to us by Jesus Himself. Let us keep this in mind as we enter the Third Week in Lent.

Third Sunday of Lent

Reading 1EX 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst 
with our children and our livestock?”
So Moses cried out to the LORD, 
“What shall I do with this people?
a little more and they will stone me!”
The LORD answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people, 
along with some of the elders of Israel, 
holding in your hand, as you go, 
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it 
for the people to drink.”
This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah, 
because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the LORD, saying,
“Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

Responsorial Psalm PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R/ (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R/ If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R/ If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R/ If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 ROM 5:1-2, 5-8

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have been justified by faith, 
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
through whom we have gained access by faith 
to this grace in which we stand, 
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint, 
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts 
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless, 
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, 
though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel JN 4:5-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, 
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him 
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him, 
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; 
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob, 
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself 
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her, 
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; 
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty 
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands, 
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; 
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand; 
we worship what we understand, 
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, 
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; 
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; 
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned, 
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, 
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” 
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar 
and went into the town and said to the people, 
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another, 
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment 
and gathering crops for eternal life, 
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; 
others have done the work, 
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” 

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified, 
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them; 
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 
and they said to the woman, 
“We no longer believe because of your word; 
for we have heard for ourselves, 
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Or JN 4:5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, 
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him, 
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him 
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him, 
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; 
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob, 
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself 
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her, 
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; 
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty 
or have to keep coming here to draw water.

“I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; 
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father 
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand; 
we worship what we understand, 
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, 
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; 
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him 
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; 
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them; 
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 
and they said to the woman, 
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves, 
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

A Prayer for Today

Lord, I believe that you are present in my life. I believe that you are my creator and that you hold me in existence at every moment. I hope in you because I know that you created me and want what’s best for me. I know that you want to give me the living water you promised to the Samaritan woman. I am the one who places obstacles in your way. My lack of faith, attachments to worldly things, egoism and vanity all get in the way of receiving your gift. I come to you in prayer today with a humble and contrite heart. You know my misery and how much I need your grace. Accept my prayer today as a token of my desire to remove the obstacles that come between us.
Petition: Lord help me to turn to you, the Wellspring of Eternal Life, to satisfy my thirst.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pope Francis: God’s Word lives through humility, prayer

VATICAN CITY, March 21 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Pope Francis warned against trying to co-opt the Word of God for one’s own purposes as did the Pharisees, urging prayer and humility instead, in his homily for Friday’s Mass.

“This is the tragedy of these people, and our tragedy too!” he preached March 21 during his Mass said at the chapel of the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse.

He reflected on the Gospel reading containing Jesus’ parable about the workers in the vineyard who killed the servants and then the son of the vineyard’s master, intending to take over the vineyard for themselves.

The Pope explained that this parable was directed to the Pharisees to show “where they had fallen” without “hearts open to the Word of God.”

He said such people “have taken over the Word of God. And the Word of God becomes their word, a word according to their interests, their ideologies, their theologies... but in their service.”

In this situation, he said, everyone interprets the Word of God “according to their own will, according to their own interests. This is the tragedy of this people. And to preserve this, they kill. This happened to Jesus.”

Jesus’ parable led the chief priests and the Pharisees seek to capture and kill him; Pope Francis said this is how the Word of God “dies” and is “imprisoned.”

This is what happens to Christians “when we are not open to the newness of the Word of God, when we are not obedient to the Word of God.”

While the Word of God can “die in our heart,” this is not the end, because “it is alive in the hearts of the simple of the humble, of the people of God.”

“That simple crowd — who followed Jesus because what he said did their hearts good, warmed their hearts — this people wasn’t wrong. They didn’t use the Word of God for their own interests; they listened, and sought to be a little bit better.”

The Pope said that through humility and prayer, Christians can become docile, and “not cage the Holy Spirit.”

“With humility and prayer we go forward by listening to the Word of God and obeying it.”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pope's exercises highlight danger of worldly temptations

Pope's exercises highlight danger of worldly temptations
by Elise Harris
Pope Francis Credit: Stephan Driscoll/CNA
Pope Francis Credit: Stephan Driscoll/CNA
.- During Pope Francis’ spiritual exercises, Msgr. Angelo De Donatis focused his meditations on the Grace of God, warning against worldly attitudes, and emphasizing the importance of being open to God’s love.

Msgr. De Donatis oversees a parish in the center of Rome, and was in charge of preaching during the Lenten retreat for Pope Francis and members of the Curia, who have been in the hillside town of Ariccia for their March 9 – 14 spiritual exercises.

Reflecting on the theme of “the purification of the heart,” Msgr. De Donatis began his Tuesday morning meditation by stating that man is like a pomegranate, and that the many seeds inside represent the various elements of creation, into which God breathed life, L’Osservatore Romano reported on March 11.

However, if man prevents the breath of God, divine merciful love, from entering and penetrating his heart, he is destined for ruin, the priest explained.

Using an actual pomegranate as an example, Msgr. De Donatis drew attention to the tiny seeds inside, emphasizing that when man does not allow God’s love to enter, the seeds become obsessed with their own self-assertion, and seek to grow larger, entering into competition with the others until they explode and destroy all of the fruit.

Going deeper into the effects of evil on man, the priest recalled the Gospel passage where Jesus casts a demonic spirit out of a young man and into a herd of swine, explaining that the reaction of the shepherds once the swine run into the sea and drown is what is happening in the world today.

Calling to mind how Jesus freed the young man from demonic possession, Msgr. De Donatis highlighted that no one took notice of the fact that he was freed, because they were too concerned with the economic disaster resulting from the death of the pigs.

Observing how the shepherds then told Jesus to leave their village, the priest explained that they were prevented from encountering Jesus by an economic ideology, adding that this is what religion faces today.

The young man is liberated and is no longer afraid, he concluded, noting that he was not saved because he did anything special, but only so he might know God’s merciful love, which we need the Holy Spirit in order to attain.

Reporting on Wednesday morning’s discourse, L’Osservatore Romano recalled in a March 12 article that Msgr. De Donatis spoke specifically of the importance of language.

Warning of the temptation of worldly language, the priest cautioned the participants that it is a dangerous trap which we cannot fall into if we wish to bear witness to the love of God and build a community which glorifies God through charity.

Unfortunately, Msgr. De Donatis lamented that in the world today man is still searching for the language of Christ, which was not one of power or force, but rather was a language of fragility that was easily understood by all, especially those who suffered.

“Jesus,” stated the priest “was the best communicator” even though he never made a speech with the aim of convincing “at any cost,” because he was able to make himself understood by communicating God’s love for man.

His words, the priest noted, were not based on the “wisdom of the world” but on the wisdom of God, which is the only way we are able to know the greatness of the gifts he has given us and in turn offer them to others in charity, thus bearing witness to the glory of Jesus.

In their March 13 article, L’Osservatore Romano reported on Wednesday morning’s meditation, highlighting how Msgr. De Donatis spoke particularly of the love of God for man.

Returning to the topic of an economic ideology, Msgr. De Donatis observed that in this logic every gesture contains the risk of not understanding the virtue which draws man to God, God to man and man to other men, which is needed in order to create a communion of love and a welcoming Church.

Describing how a child who prepares for their first communion recognizes in their own way, both unconsciously and indirectly, the ability of God to transform a simple gesture into something which spreads inside of them and creates communion, the priest asked participants “do you know Jesus so well out of work purposes, or because you are friends?”

Recalling the Gospel story of the woman who meets Jesus in the house of a leper and breaks a marble jar in order to wash Jesus’ head and feet with the expensive oil inside, Msgr. De Donatis highlighted how Jesus went to the leper’s house, stating that he goes where there is evil.

He goes, the priest continued, because he has the security of being loved anyway, which is a feeling that every man who leaves his town for other places seeks.

The gesture of this woman, which takes place when Jesus is at table with his friends, signifies a gratuitous love, he continued, adding that it carries greater weight because of the fact that during that time it was only two days until Easter, and the scribes were already plotting to kill Jesus.

Concluding their retreat on Friday morning, March 14, Pope Francis, the Curia members and Msgr. De Donatis left Ariccia at 10:30 a.m., and returned to Rome by bus.

Homily for Today

Looking before me, what do I see? I see the children of the Lord gathered as a faith community to celebrate the Second Sunday of Lent. Our Christian gathering, one of thousands that are taking place today throughout the world, is a perfect example of how the grace of God is working through each and everyone of us to merge us as one Body.

Entering the second week of the Lenten Season, through its liturgical readings, the Catholic Church reminds us of the baptismal promise that opened the door to our Sacramental journey for the glory of God and the sanctification of our souls.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Genesis [Gen. 12:1-4] involved the Divine calling of Abraham to become the spiritual father of the people of God. The appearance of Abraham in history marked a new era. In the seventy-fifth year [Gen. 12:4] of Abraham, God intervened in the course of history, reshaping its future to embrace His Divine Plan of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Lord called Abram to take his relatives and to depart from his country and his father's house. From there, all would journey to the land that the Lord would show them through Abram. [Gen. 12:1]

From this biblical passage, we learn that Abram did not take the initiation to communicate with God or to seek His blessings. Rather, it was Yahweh who made the first initiation. Equally, when we were called to become Christians in the living faith, it was not by our own initiation. Rather, it was the grace of God that was manifested in us first. "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us..." [1 Jn. 4:10]

The fiat of Abram embraced two commands. First, he was required to completely disassociate himself from his pagan past. Secondly, he was required to migrate to a land of God's choice. Equally, when we accepted Christ in our lives through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, we were called to detach ourselves from our past. "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" [2 Cor. 5:17] And our migration is our spiritual journey in the Sacramental life of the Holy Catholic Church, the Body of Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit that is manifested in us, we are sanctified in order to become worthy children of God who will dwell in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

God promised Abram, that of him, He would make a great nation, that He would bless him and make great his name so that Abram would be a blessing to many. [Gen. 12:2] As we learn from The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, in Abraham was fulfilled the promise that he would become the father of many nations. [Rom. 4:17-8] Abraham was the first of many to be made righteous not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. [Rom. 4:13]

The Lord God said to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." [Gen. 12:3] Without the fiat of Abraham, salvation would not have come to us. Having been blessed by the free grace of the Heavenly Father, the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, we owe our gratitude to our spiritual father, Abraham. The reward of Divine blessings that Abraham received, we too have received it. May God be praised forever!

Responding to the call of the Lord, at age seventy-five, Abraham and his relatives departed from Haran. [Gen. 12:4] Abraham did not say, "Oh Lord, can it wait until tomorrow, I am tired." Nor did he say, "Lord, I am too old to start walking blindly, not knowing where you are going to guide me." As the Virgin Mary gave her fiat unconditionally to the angel of the Lord, Abraham gave his fiat unconditionally to Yahweh. These models of perfect fiats remind us that we should not delay our commitment to accept Christ in our lives. We should not delay our admission into the Body of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. Nor should we delay our obligation to receive the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist on a regular basis to maintain our righteousness before God. For we know not the moment when the breath of life will be taken from us in this world.

Today's Second Reading from the Second Letter of Timothy [2 Tim. 1:8b-10] is a reminder that God calls each and everyone of us. God wants us to become holy, reminding us that we have received our life and immortality through the Gospel. Therefore, we are called to "Join... in suffering for the gospel..." [2 Tim. 1:8b]

When we received the Sacrament of Confirmation, having been perfectly bound to the Church and enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit, as true witnesses, we became more strictly obligated to spread and defend the Catholic faith by our words and deed. (C.C.C. # 1285) And as our forefathers suffered for the Gospel, even Christ Himself, we are called to share in the sufferings of the Body of Christ. When suffering, we should share the words of St. Paul, "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church." [Col. 1:24] (C.C.C. # 1508)

In our sufferings, we are called to rely on the power of God." [2 Tim. 1:8b] When Paul appealed to God about his suffering, the Lord answered, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." [2 Cor. 12:9] (C.C.C. # 1508) Following in the footsteps of St. Paul, we too should state, "So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." [2 Cor. 12:9-10] In other words, through physical sufferings, we are spiritually strengthened in our daily communion with Christ.

God's calling for us to be holy was not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace. [2 Tim. 1:9] On this subject, I would like to quote the words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians. "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life." [Eph. 2:4-10]

"This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." [2 Tim. 1:9] In His foreknowledge of sin entering the world, the Lord God had planned to dispense His loving and merciful grace through the Lord Jesus. This was before the age of God's people when the Law had been given to mankind, before the age that covered from Adam to Moses, and even before the age of Adam in the Garden Eden.

But now, through the incarnation of our Saviour Jesus Christ, death has been abolished, life and immortality has been brought to light through the Gospel. [2 Tim. 1:10] "Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, sot that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham." [Heb. 2:14-6]

During today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 17:1-9] we heard that in the company of Peter, James and his brother John, [Mt. 17:1] Jesus transfigured on a high mountain. What was the exact purpose of His transfiguration, three reasons can be given.

(1) First of all, when God spoke from Heaven, as He had spoken during the Baptism [Mt. 3:17] of Jesus, the sonship of Jesus was being revealed to those who were present.

(2) Secondly, when the face of Jesus shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white, the event may have testified to the fact that the Lord Jesus was the true Light which enlightens everyone. [Jn. 1:9, 8:12; Lk. 2:32]

(3) Thirdly, the transfiguration may have foreshadowed the eternal reign of Jesus as God and King in Heaven. The Book of Revelation tells us, "And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light..." [Rev. 22:5] "God is light and in him there is no darkness at all." [1 Jn. 1:5]

When Moses and Elijah appeared, [Mt. 17:4] Peter must have recalled the brightness of the face of Moses on Mt. Sinai when He received the Ten Commandments. [Ex. 34:29-35] The request to make three tents alludes to the Feast of Tabernacles. This Feast commemorates the sojourn of the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. It is believed Peter must have suspected that Jesus was about to receive the revelation of another Law. Moses and Elijah were symbolic figures, representing the Law and the Prophets. Jesus was not about to receive a new revelation; He was uniting the two, He being the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

While Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah, "a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!'" [Mt. 17:5] The bright cloud is a symbol of the presence of God. In the Old Testament, we find a passage that states, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after." [Ex. 19:9, 24:15-6]

When the supernatural event was finally over, Jesus and His disciples went down the mountain. While doing so, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." [Mt. 4:11] For it was not yet the time for the world to know and understand that Jesus was closing the age of the Law and the Prophets.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today's three readings remind us that the Heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, so we may be saved through the grace and mercy of a loving God who never abandoned us to sin and death. Before we were created, the Lord God called us with a holy calling. [2 Tim. 1:8] Through Christ, He showed us the way, the truth and the life. [Jn. 14:6]

Instituted by Christ Himself, the Holy Catholic Church commands us to prepare ourselves for the great Feast of Easter that approaches. So we may be holy on that day as Jesus is holy, we are called to repent of our sins and receive the Sacrament of Confession. Then, having been made righteous in Christ, the Lord God will no longer remember our sins. And having been raised to a state of holiness, we will all qualify to join together in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Easter Sunday.