Lent Week 2: Monday 01 March 2021
First Reading: Daniel 9: 4b – 10
Gospel: Luke 6: 36 – 38
To enjoy certain privileges there is a need to fulfil certain requirements and demands.
To be able to exercise the power of voting in the country, one has to have the required age.
To get through a professional job, one has to have the required qualification.
To be a leader either in a secular or religious forum one has to fulfil the necessary conditions and characters.
And in today’s Gospel, there is a list of requirements and demands to enjoy certain privileges.
To be not judged, one should not judge others.
To be not condemned, one should not condemn.
To be forgiven, one has to forgive.
To be given, one has to give.
Most of the times, we all wish the entire world to understand us, to love us, care for us, listen to us, be good to us, accompany us and make us happy always.
Have we ever given it a thought that we need to do the same to others?
Have we made any efforts to understand, love, care for, listen to, accompany and make others happy?
Jesus says today in the Gospel,
‘the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’
Spread love and you will receive Love.
Spread mercy and you will receive mercy.
Spread happiness and you will receive happiness.
The event of the Annunciation is always an inspiration and an example of spreading happiness and receiving happiness in return. Good and happy news comes from the Lord, through Angel Gabriel that makes Mary happy and blessed. Our Blessed Mother carries the good news to Elizabeth that makes her and the child in her womb (John) happy. Feeling privileged at the visit of the mother of God, Elizabeth praises Mary (Blessed are you among women). And with great serenity and humility Mary, in return, praises God (My soul magnifies the Lord).
A beautiful cycle of a positive feeling spread. Good news comes from God and reaches back to God making everyone happy, content and peaceful.
We are invited to give a good measure to others, without any expectations, counting no cost. We are demanded to sow good seeds so that we may reap a good harvest.
There may be questions and doubts arising in our minds. Is it possible in this corrupt and evil world to be assured of receiving good for the good done?
The promising good news is that God is good to us. He will be always good to us. He is always merciful to us.
Let us be always good and merciful, to others.
(By Fr. Ashok Lawrence SDB, Secretary – Salesian Province of Tiruchy)
NO HOLDING BACK
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10
“No Holding Back” is the title of Michael Holding’s autobiography.
It conveys his attitude during his career: he gave his all in every match. It highlights his manner as a commentator: though gentle, he is a fearless and rational critic. It captures the tenor of the book: he does not shirk controversial issues—the slide of West Indian cricket, the dismal state of its admin, and ICC politics.
Holding owes his achievements as a cricketer, a commentator, and a writer to “no holding back”!
“No holding back” is the thrust of today’s Lenten liturgy. It is the reason for God blessing Abraham and for Jesus’ glorification.
God blessed Abraham abundantly because he did not hold anything back: he left his homeland, believed that God would give him an heir despite his and Sarah’s advanced years, and then did not hold back the life of that heir, the fulfilment of God’s promise.
The gospel is the account of the Transfiguration. God’s voice from the cloud said: “This is my beloved Son…” This son is the one who gave up his natural family to reach out to the wider family of God’s children; who gave up his foster father’s business to go about his heavenly Father’s business; who did not hold back his life but gave everything on Calvary. Jesus’ glorification—foreshadowed at the transfiguration—happened after he sacrificed his all on the cross.
Paul, in Romans 8:32, writes that God did not hold back “his own Son but handed him over for us all.”
Accepting the God of blessing is easy, but when that God becomes the God of suffering who asks us to give readily and humbly to others, then we begin to hold back. When we develop a loving relationship with God, we will not withhold anything from God.
What do I hold back from God? Will I imitate God, Jesus, and Abraham… and make “no holding back” the thrust of my life? How will I practice “no holding back” in the week ahead?
(By Fr. Dr. Vinod Mascarenhas SDB)
Lent Week 1: Saturday 27 February 2021
Gospel of Mathew 5: 43 – 48
The gospel of today shows us the turning point between the OT and the NT. Jesus is perfecting the Old Testament. In Mathew 5:17, Jesus says, “I have come not to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them.” Jesus is asking us to walk the extra-mile; How do we do that? Love over hate, patience over irritation, forgiveness over hurt.
The Old law says, “Love your neighbour, and hate your enemy,” but Jesus tells us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is difficult to love even our neighbour, then how do we love our enemies. Jesus asks us to love our neighbour and enemies. It is our human nature to immediately react and take revenge; tit for tat. Instead we are asked to filter our anger and revengeful feelings as Ronald Rolheiser would say and sent out only the good feelings, pray for those who persecute and do us harm. In this way we will be sons and daughters of God our Father in heaven. God is very loving and merciful and he makes no partiality between his children. He causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike.
Jesus’ invites us to ‘Love those who love you, and love also those you find hard to love. Greet your brothers and sisters who admire and love you, and strife hard, forgive, love and greet those whom you find difficult to admire. This will ultimate change the persons and the world.
Punch line: Love over hate, patience over irritation, forgiveness over hurt.
By Fr Paul Panii (Parish Priest of Christ King, Kohima)
Friday of the First Week of Lent
“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise, your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” Mathew 5:26
Was our Lord here giving legal advice regarding a criminal or civil case and how to avoid prosecution? Certainly not. He was presenting us with an image of Himself as the just Judge. And He was exhorting us to show mercy to anyone and everyone who could be seen as our “opponent.”
Forgiveness of another is essential. It can never be withheld. But forgiveness is actually not even enough. The ultimate goal must be reconciliation which goes much further. In this Gospel above, Jesus exhorts us to “settle” with our opponents, therein implying reconciliation. The RSV version of the Bible says it this way, “Make friends quickly with your accuser…” Working to foster a “friendship” with one who has accused you, especially if it is a false accusation, goes far beyond simply forgiving them.
To reconcile with another and to re-establish a true friendship means that you not only forgive but also do all you can to ensure that you re-establish a relationship of love with that person. It means that you both put your grievance behind you and start anew. Of course, that takes both people to cooperate in love; but, for your part, it means that you work hard to establish this reconciliation.
Think about someone who has hurt you, and, as a result, your relationship with them has been damaged. Have you prayerfully forgiven that person before God? Have you prayed for that person and asked God to forgive them? If so, then you are now ready for the next step of reaching out to them in love to mend your relationship. This takes great humility, especially if the other person was the cause of the hurt and especially if they have not spoken words of sorrow to you, asking for your forgiveness. Don’t wait for them to do so. Look for ways to show that person that you love them and want to heal the hurt. Don’t hold their sin before them or hold on to a grudge. Seek only love and mercy.
Jesus concludes this exhortation with strong words. Essentially, if you fail to do all you can to reconcile and re-establish your relationship, you will be held accountable for it. Though this may seem unfair at first, it is clearly not, because this is the depth of mercy that our Lord offers us every day. We will never be adequately sorry for our sin, but God forgives and reconciles with us anyway. What a grace! But if we fail to offer this same mercy to others, we essentially limit God’s ability to offer this mercy to us, and we will be required to pay back “the last penny” of our own debt to God.
Let us reflect, today, upon the person who comes to mind with whom we need to fully reconcile and rekindle a relationship of love. Let us pray for this grace, commit ourselves to it and look for opportunities to do so. Let us try to do it without reserve and we may never regret such a decision.
(Fr. Alex Mathew Kattakaym is currently the Principal of Don Bosco College, Bongaigaon, Assam. He belongs to the Salesian Province of Guwahati.)
Gospel: Matthew 7:7-12
“Ask and it will be given”. God is the giver of life and longs his creation to be with him. God is the source of beauty, goodness, life and love. Humans are limited in all these. Jesus is the fullness of God. Jesus tells us to “ask and it will be given”.
God is wise in creating us limited and dependent, else we become full and proud. We ask for things because we need/ we want. We ask those we hope and believe that they can help us. We ask because we want to learn and acquire knowledge, and we ask to get.
Jesus asks us to pray for the Holy Spirit. In the prayer He taught us to pray, He taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done; for daily bread; for the forgiveness of sins, for not falling into temptation and deliverance from the evil one. When we ask God, what do we ask for? How do we ask?
“Seek and you will find”. The human salvation story is one of God searching for us. God called and searched for Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit? Jesus used many parables to explain this search of God for us- the ‘lost coin’, the ‘lost sheep’, the ‘prodigal son’, etc. Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
The three Wise men came from afar to seek the new born king; the first disciples sought the master and stayed with him; the Geek came to seek the master; the sinners came for forgiveness; the sick came for healing and the blind for light. Finding what they sought gave them joy and happiness. Whom and What do we search for- God? Meaning? Happiness/fulfilment? Where and how do we search?
‘…Heavenly Father gives good things…’ God always gives good things. He gave the best gift-everlasting life. God the Father gave his only beloved Son into the world. Jesus gave his own self and He sends the Holy Spirit- who is the perfect gift, the gift we need, and we should be asking for. This is because God is our heavenly Father and we are his children.
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you”. We are in the season of grace (Lent). Lent is a good time to do for others what we want others to do for us. We can forgive, accept others more charitably; welcome others into our company; be friendly with others; visit our dear ones, love, appreciate and compliment others and be kind and helpful to others. Let us be grateful to God for his love. God will give us his blessings.
Let us ask the grace of the Holy Spirit to pray and seek for God; to be good to others in words and deeds.
Fr John Rangla SDB (a missionary in Nagaland)
A broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Ps-51:17
Who is better and who is great? The answer comes in the form of today’s liturgy. The person becomes better when he/she is ready to realise his/her own sins, and the person becomes great after not just knowing one state of sinfulness but coming out of it through real remorse and rectification.
The big news that we get through today’s readings is that God’s forgiveness is so great and humongous, that any amount of sins seems to be ridiculously small. This is the happiest news as Christians we get. So, no sinner on this earth can feel or say that he or she is beyond redemption and forgiveness. At no point in our lifetime, we stand disqualified to get the grace of God.
From Bible we see, starting from the people of Nineveh, David up to Peter and Paul, who otherwise would have remained as hard-core sinners, if not for the mercy of God, became great and saintly persons.
At this junction one may raise a question that God’s mercy is so powerful that I can be forgiven at any time, so let me continue my merrymaking way of life till the last period of my life. And at the end, at the death bed, I can feel sorry for my sins and ask God’s forgiveness and get completely washed off my sins. So why should I regret for my sins now?
To answer the question, yes whatever may be the number of sins, God can forgive at any point of our life. But God’s forgiveness is something like a preacher preaching in a church. The persons who are close to him in the church are able to get the message very clear. As we go out of the church the voice becomes unclear, and if we go beyond a certain distance the voice becomes unheard. In this context can a person who is far away from the church, say the Preacher is silent? No, the Preacher is all the time preaching, only thing is that the person has gone too far away that he /she is no more able to hear.
Likewise, when we keep on adding sins one after the other, we slowly but surely going away from God. And there will be a situation we no longer think about the mercy of God, for satan might have taken us far away from realising the mercy of God.
So, my dear friends, it is the right time that we realise our sins and repents for them like the people of Nineveh. It is not the number of sins (Peter denied three times but Judas betrayed only one time) but the attitude of non-repentance that we show will take us away from the mercy of God.
Finally, trust in God and His Mercy, repent all the time for our sins and we stand qualified for the mercy of God.
(By Justin MMI, a missionary in Nagaland)
In the gospel of today, Jesus himself teaches us how to pray. When we pray, Jesus wants us to conform to him in words and in deeds. Our prayer should reflect our universal attitude towards life. God is not the private possession of one, or a few people. And therefore, when we pray we should remember that God is the father of all people and so we call Our Father.
God is our father, the father of us all. All good children as well as naughty children have Him as our father. For a father, all are His children, the good as well as the naughty. He wishes for the good of all children. He loves everyone, is kind and just to all. All children can justly claim him as their Father.
As children of God, we wish that His will be done here on earth as in heaven. The problem we face is that we constantly find it difficult to conform to His will because we are not disciplined enough and our wishes and desires are base. We human beings want to enjoy the little pleasures of the world which go beyond the prescribed limits and so we fall short of our perfection.
Then after wishing the will of God to be done in our lives, we ask for our physical needs. God wishes for the good relationship of every one of his children. God, therefore, wants an assurance from us, that we forgive our brothers and sisters first, to receive forgiveness and blessings from Him. Once we bring blessings to others then we are ready to receive blessings from God.
Punch line: Once we bring blessings to others then we are ready to receive God’s blessings.
(By Fr Paul Panii SDB, a missionary in Nagaland)
The Church Shall Always Prevail
Feast of the Chair of St. Peter
“And so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19.
There are several foundational truths taught to us by this passage above. One of those truths is that “the gates of the netherworld” shall never prevail against the Church. There is much to rejoice over by that fact.
Think of the many human institutions that have existed throughout the centuries. The most powerful governments have come and gone. Various movements have come and gone. Countless organizations have come and gone. But the Catholic Church still remains and will remain until the end of time. That is one of the promises of our Lord that we celebrate today.
The Church has not remained simply because of good leadership all of these years. In fact, corruption and serious internal conflict have been evident within the Church from the beginning. Many Popes have not lived exemplary lives. Cardinals and bishops have lived as princes. Some priests have gravely sinned. And many religious orders have struggled with serious internal divisions. But the Church itself, this shining Bride of Christ, this infallible institution still remains and will continue to remain because Jesus guaranteed it.
With today’s modern media by which every sin of every member of the Church is able to be instantly and universally broadcast to the world, there can be a temptation to look down on the Church. Scandal, division, controversy and the like can shake us to the core, at times, and cause some to question their ongoing participation in the Roman Catholic Church. But the truth is that every weakness within Her members should actually because for us to renew and deepen our faith in the Church itself. Jesus did not promise that every Church leader would be a saint, but He did promise that “the gates of the netherworld” would not prevail against Her.
Let us reflect today, upon our own view of the Church. If scandals and divisions have weakened our faith, then let us turn our eyes to our Lord and to His holy and divine promise. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against the Church. That is a fact promised by our Lord Himself. Believe it and rejoice in that glorious truth.
(Fr. Alex Mathew Kattakaym is currently the Principal of Don Bosco College, Bongaigaon, Assam. He belongs to the Salesian Province of Guwahati.)
Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15
Many years ago, the explorer Richard Byrd spent a winter alone at the South Pole. Four and a half months in solitude. Why?
Byrd answers that question in his book Alone. Despite his numerous achievements, he felt empty. He wanted to get away from everything “remote from all but the simplest distractions, with no necessities but those imposed by the wind and night and cold.”
Byrd emerged from his experience changed. He discovered that one can live more deeply and profoundly if one keeps life simple, without cluttering it with things.
Byrd is like many people who spent time alone, and came back changed: Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist… It’s not surprising, then, that Jesus spends time in solitude.
The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness soon after his baptism! What happens to him in the wilderness? He matures. He listens to his inner voice; he deepens his awareness that he must rely on God and God alone; he becomes aware of his mission and its implications. Jesus returns ready to proclaim the Good News.
Our journey through life is like Jesus’ journey! We spend time preparing to launch into the world: think graduation day, religious profession or ordination day, wedding day. It’s a massive high. Almost immediately comes the testing time. Reality hits! We enter the desert, and not by choice! The mistake we make is we surround ourselves—with work, with people, with things.
We need to learn from Jesus. He spent time in solitude. He did this often. Note that John does not have the account of the Temptation in his gospel; the temptation happens repeatedly throughout Jesus’ ministry. And each time Jesus overcame it by spending time alone.
But he is not alone! Mark ends his one-line version of the temptation thus: “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” Jesus is not alone in the desert! God is with him, angels care for him, and nature is with him.
It will be the same with us when we spend time alone. God is with us. After the wilderness moment, we will be able to continue our commitments.
Will I spend time alone? Will I give up my dependence on material things and rely on God?
May you and I discover God’s providential care and the empathetic support of people during our desert moments, and support others during theirs.
(By Fr. Dr. Vinod Mascarenhas SDB)
Gospel: Luke 5:27-32
“Jesus went out and saw a tax collector Levi”. The way our Lord encountered people was always notable. He went about doing good. He saw beauty and goodness. Today he saw a tax collector and considered him fit to be his disciple. Levi from being a tax collector became a gospel gatherer.
Oscar Wilde says, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future”. Jesus saw Nathaniel as an Israelite without guile; he saw Zacchaeus as a son of Abraham; the woman caught in adultery as forgivable/loveable. How do I look at others? What do I see in the others?
John the Baptist saw Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”; the centurion saw our Lord on the cross as “the true Son of God”; John the Evangelist and Peter ran to the empty tomb of Jesus, they saw the empty tomb and believed that Jesus was risen. What do we see in Jesus? How do we see Jesus? How does Jesus see us?
“And leaving everything, he rose and followed him…” Levi was courageous to leave everything and follow Jesus. Yes, he left everything. It was total faith, total giving up of his properties and office. Jesus became his guide and master. Once we leave behind everything, there’s nothing to claim later. There is no point in turning back. To follow and walk along with someone on a journey calls for light packing. We cannot carry huge/heavy luggage on long journeys (especially when walking), else the journey be tiresome and difficult. Levi was wise. He left behind everything and followed Jesus. Do we leave behind our pride, prejudices, memories of people, things and events in following Jesus?
‘Why does your master eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners’? Our Lord often did that. He mingled and partied with so called ‘sinners’. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. He continues to eat and drink with us in the Eucharist. He shares our “tables and company”- to feed and strengthen our souls. He is not afraid to accept criticisms for us. Jesus eats and drinks with us because he loves, cares and saves. Do we value the “tableship”/ fellowship of our Lord?
Jesus answered them, “Those who are well, have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” Jesus not only welcomed the ‘tax collectors and sinners’ by being with them but even defended them by his words. His used his actions and words always to console and protect. Do we welcome the rejected, the helpless? Are we comfortable in the company of the poor, the sick and suffering?
Let us ask the grace of the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace to see beauty, goodness and love in others.
Fr John Rangla (a missionary in Nagaland)