March 13, 2018 – Tuesday in the 4th Week of Lent

Saint for the day: Leander of Seville (c. 534 – 600/601

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:  Ezekiel 47:1-9,12 – Ps 46 – John 5:1-16

“What do you want?”

If we could hear God/Jesus asking us this question, what would our answer be? Think about it.

One of the perks that we have in the season of Lent is that the Church picks the Scripture readings along the lines of “themes” rather than going sequentially through different books of the Bible.

So, today we hear the Gospel of the paralytic who has been waiting for a miraculous cure from the stirred waters for 38 years. To support this Gospel – and to tie it into the Old Testament – our first Scripture reading from Ezekiel gives us a picture of the “healing waters” that flow out of the Temple in all directions, and causing healing and health to all that it touches.

Yet, even with this picture so clearly painted for us Jesus still asks us the question, “Do you want to be healed?” Our answer might be a curt, “Of course! Why do you think I’m here?” This man in this story is like us in so many ways and he has gotten used to being carried – every day – to this same place. And he has let his infirmity become his ticket to a life of begging. He is like so many of the people who stand every day on busy corner of an intersection begging. Once, I tried to help an old man who wandered up and down the highway with a story of his need to get to a Veterans Hospital to get his teeth fixed. I let him stay in the Church Hall overnight and brought him a little breakfast in the morning. When I handed the food to him I said, “There is someone here in the parish who works with the Veterans Administration who can get the help you need.” Even before I finished he refused the food that I was offering and said, “That’s OK. I’ll just be on my way.”

We have to want to be healed and we have to be willing to let go of those things that we have become used to having as our “crutches.”

There is healing water flowing out from the Temple (hear we should read: from the resurrected body of Jesus) and we need to come to that water.

The man is this Gospel obviously had friends who carried him to the edge of the water and then left him there. Why didn’t they stay around until the “waters got stirred?”

I think the answer is obvious: friends can bring us to Jesus but I have to want to be healed. Jesus is still asking that question: “Do you want to be healed?” Amen!

 

 

March 11, 2018 – 4th Sunday of Lent

March 11, 2018 – Sunday  the 4th week of Lent

Sorry, this date is missing.

 March 12, 2018 – Monday in the 4th Week of Lent

 Sorry good friends of Scratchpad Reflections with some of the recent dates have gotten mixed up. I’m working on getting it all back together as soon as possible.   Thank you for being patient with my mistakes.

Brother Daniel

March 10, 2018 – Saturday in the 3rd Week of Lent

 

Today’s Saint: Dominic Savio (April 2, 1842 – March 9, 1857)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hosea 6:1-6 – Ps. 51 – Luke 18:9-14

“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” (Today’s Responsorial Psalm 51)

 The above verse from Psalm 51 – the “mesericordia psalm” – often leads folks to “poo-paw” any sense of Lenten sacrifice since we repeat four times the response: “It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.” But doing that is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Look back at the end of the reading from Hosea which says, “…it is love that I desire… and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” This can only mean, that without love and knowledge of God, sacrifice – in and of itself – amounts to nothing. I’ve always tried to get people over the “hurdle” of Lent being a marathon race of holding your breath until noon on Holy Saturday. Love, mercy and knowledge of God. Another “three word phrase” that needs to be a part of our awareness of what Lent is supposed to be all about.   Authentic love always takes us out of ourselves and finds its completeness only when it bounces off another. In this case we make God the recipient of our love and the reverberation comes back to us in the form of mercy. When we come to this point we are experiencing “knowledge of God!” The problem that we are shown in the parable in today’s Gospel Scripture is that the Pharisee (that name means, separated ones) thought of himself as already there and in no need of God’s mercy. “Love” wasn’t probably even in his vocabulary and he certainly didn’t seem to have any real knowledge of God. For him, it was all externals: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity …and look at all the things I do to please you!   When you come right down to the nitty-gritty of it – our “bottom line,” – we all have to come before God – not with a bag full of our accomplishments – but rather with a sense of what “knowledge of God” really means: His love and mercy towards us is inexhaustible. It’s not what I do for God but rather what God is doing for us. When we come to this awareness – knowledge of God – He surprises us with His “You ain’t seen nothing yet! You are not far from the Kingdom!” Amen!

March 9, 2018 – Thursday in the 3rd Week of Lent

I know that I’ve said it before – many times – but it bears repeating since it is the beginning of the Holy Gospel that we hear today: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:27ff)

FYI If there is only one thing that a faithful Jew knows it would be “The Shema, Israel” found in Deuteronomy 6 click on this link and read verses 4-9 This scripture passage is where the Orthodox Jews pick up the notion of the widened phylacteries and the practice of having that little symbol a – “Mezuzah” – that is attached to the door post that they reverently touch as the enter and leave the house.

What you’ll notice is that Jesus picks up on this well-known passage but then adds the clincher: “your neighbor as yourself!” Hearing these words of Jesus, the scribe responds, “You have answered wisely” and then Jesus says, “You are not far from the Kingdom!”

 It’s all like an outline:

— the Lord is Lord alone —love God with all your heart— with all your soul

— with all your mind— with all your strength— and your neighbor as yourself

You might try to use the above as a kind of “examination of conscience” during this Lenten Season. It might help to put it in the form of questions: “Is the Lord my Lord alone?” when / how have I loved him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?And then, don’t forget the “corker!” AND my neighbor as myself!

 If you can follow this as honestly as you can you’ll hear the Lord say, “You are not far from the Kingdom!” Amen!

March 8, 2018 – Thursday in the 3rd Week of Lent

Saint for the day: John of God – March 8, 1495 – March 8, 1550)

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

Jeremiah 7:23 – 28 – Psalm 95 – Luke 11:14-23

“In the beginning was the Word”

Whenever the Scriptures remind us that we are not listening to “God’s Word” I can’t help but go back to the very beginning. In Genesis we read: “In the beginning all was formless void and the Spirit hovered over the chaos and brought it all into order.” And God said, “Let there be… and it was. And it was good.” Yet, from that point on it seems like God had to struggle with us to get us to trust Him and His gift of creation. He gave us free will and time and time again, we make the wrong choices. “You will be my people and I will be your God.” Yet it doesn’t seem as if that was a good enough promise and one bite of the apple proved that it was a bad choice!

From then on, God has had to labor intensely to convince us that He is a God With Us: Emmanuel. We can look back at the history of Israel and say, “but that was then. This is now” but it’s almost all in the same moment. We perceive God’s presence in our lives and all the blessings that He grants to us. Then in a flash we turn our backs on His love and decide to take the pleasure of the moment over his promise to “be with us till the end of time.”

When Jesus is accused by the S & P’s of using the power of the devil to cast out devils He retorts with that familiar phrase, “any Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” So, here we are. Halfway through Lent and we need to be reminded that God has brought us out of darkness into His wonderful light in order that we might be His people and know the oneness of God that is promised us … over and over again!

Lucifer – the name means “light bearer” – promises us his light which is all “razzel-dazzel” a flash in the pan light that doesn’t last. I’m reminded of that simple song, “This little of mine. I’m gonna let it shine…” St. Paul tells us, “fan that spark of life that God has given you into a living flame. St. Dominic’s symbol is a “hound” carrying a

flaming torch in his mouth lighting up “fires of faith” throughout the world. Can we not forget all the wonders God has poured into our lives and even though it might seem as if the spark is about to go out let us gently fan it back into a flame of faith.

In the beginning God said, “let there be light” and so it was. He brought us out of darkness – time and time again. Can we still trust Him?

“I will be your God and you shall be my people!”

March 7, 2018 – Wednesday in the 3rd Week of Lent

 

Saints for the day: Perpetua & Felicity (did: 203)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 – Psalm 147 – Matthew 5:17-19

“Not one jot or tittle shall be removed from the Law until it is accomplished.”

 For the Jews at the time of Jesus “the Law” was all there was. And the S & P’s expended all of their energy making sure that the above passage was not overlooked. Yet Jesus says, “… until it is accomplished.”   Laws and regulations are not bad ideas. They keep a certain order to our lives and many of the Old Testament laws were very practical: all the things about dietary regulations and health issues were important to the Jews as they wandered on their way to the promised land. When Jesus was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners he told them, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor but those who are sick.” All throughout His public life Jesus broke the laws that the Jews held as absolute. He, himself said, “until all is accomplished!”

Any laws are enacted in order to free people to live a more productive and alive life. As soon as Jesus began His public ministry He began to show that He was “the Way.” He is “the truth.” He is “the Life.” He was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. From the Cross Jesus announced the completion of His life when he said, “It is all accomplished!” All 613 laws – intended to guide us to the awareness that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him might not die but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

So, “all is accomplished!” Does that mean that we no longer have to follow any laws? Certainly not. But we do have to remember that just following laws for the sake of following them will never get us to the Kingdom. Laws and regulations are a means to an end. Not an end in themselves. Jesus is the means and the end, all wrapped together. If we try to separate that we will lose what Jesus was offering us: “Come to me (yes, come to the Cross) and I will give you rest.” But so many of us say, “take me, Jesus, but let’s bypass the Cross and go straight into the Kingdom.” No way! Sorry. All the law and the prophets is summed up at the Cross where we encounter Jesus who gave His life for our salvation. “… it is accomplished!”

March 6, 2018 – Tuesday in the 3rd Week of Lent

Today, this Old Testament reading from Daniel about the three young men in the fiery furnace, seems to strike a chord with me. Here we are, halfway through Lent and still feeling as if we haven’t gotten the message. And the “message” is forgiveness. Not just forgiveness for those who might have done us wrong but also, forgiveness for ourselves in that we have not allowed the love of God to fan the flames of the fire and bring us to that cooling point. All of us get stuck in a furnace of our own shortcomings. We are more willing to say, “woe is me” than to say, “Lord, show me what I need to do to get out of this place of slavery and bask in your loving presence.   Yet we often slap God in the face – almost saying, “I could never be forgiven for … whatever.

There is a two-sided key to this problem: in the story of the three young men in the furnace their answer seems to be “praise,” Here they are in a furnace seven times hotter than normal and they are able to sing God’s praises to the extent that a cooling breeze keeps them safe. In the Gospel it seems to be the granting of forgiveness – unconditionally – that allows the flames of hatred and sin to be squelched. “Forgive us as we have forgiven … not just once but seventy times seven. And that forgiveness needs to go in both directions. As we forgive others we also need to allow forgiveness to be given to ourselves. Yet so many of us hold on to our faults thinking that God could never forgive us. Yet, if we don’t allow that forgiveness to come to us, we will never be able to forgive others. We need to explore this matter at greater depth. Perhaps during the remaining days of Lent we will finally get to that point where we can say, “now I understand the forgiveness that God is talking about. Amen!

March 5, 2018 – Monday in the 3rd week of Lent

Saint for the day: John Joseph of the Cross – August 15, 1654 – March 5, 1734

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Kings 5:1 – 15 – Psalm 42 – Luke 4:24-30

Today we get another reminder from Jesus that His mercy, compassion and healing are poured out on all those in need. Not only the one’s who are part of our limited world view. We’re about half way through Lent and we often slip into self absorption thinking we’ve done well in our efforts to amend our lives. Unfortunately we tend to hold on to our “better-than-you” attitude which limits our ability to be all inclusive in the way mercy is shared. It’s not enough to give up sweets if all it does is make us pine for candy. Our giving up or anything needs to allow us to step back from the ordinary in order to see where our mercy & compassion is needed. Often this move will force us to look at situations that we would rather not confront. I think of the act of the Pope during Lent when he washes the feet of 12 prisoners. I’m sure that some Monsignor carefully selects just the right blend of people for this act for the safety of the Pope. This symbolic act loses all its value since it is too controlled. In Lent all of us have to go beyond a limited act that we can do with no possibility of being affected. Perhaps it would be better if the pope just went out on his own, dressed like a common person and did some act of kindness without any fan fare. “What good is there if you only love those who love you?”

March 4, 2018 – Third Sunday of Lent

Saint for the day: Casimir (1458 – 1483)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

Exodus 17:3-7 – Ps. 95 – Romans 5:1-5-8 – John 4:5-42

“Jesus said, ‘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 a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:14)

 The Church gives us this Gospel almost every year and it’s a long one and there’s always the tendency to be time-consciousness and choose the abbreviated text. But, doing that takes away the heart of this story which is filled with multiply levels of dialogue that are important for us to grasp.

The Gospel writers – like they often do in John – have given us a wonderful “word picture” that could be seen as a kind of “Oberammergau Passion Play” done on a huge stage with different characters coming and going so that we a given a wide view of what’s going on.

St. John has a wonderful way of giving us all the information that we need in order to know the entire scope of the story. Most of this is done in what I would call, “1st Person Narrative” so we get all the information we need about what’s going on through the dialogues between the characters as they come and go. It’s the kind of drama that any one of us could easily fit into and that’s the point that St. John wants us to get.

Jesus will always reach out to foreigners, women and others considered outsiders – even as he is totally aware of all the circumstances of their lives. The woman in this story is the sub-narrator as she herself explains what’s going on: “Sir, why are you speaking to a women? You want a drink but don’t have a bucket! … I can see you are a prophet… give me this living water so I don’t have to come here anymore.”

  Jesus stays put and is just there for them to come and see and come to understand what he is offering: living water and food that you don’t even know about.

The important fact for us to get from this story is that Jesus is always there. He never moves from the cistern signifying that he truly is the source of living water and the one that offers it to all who ask – even as he knows exactly who we are and what we’ve done. The message of today’s Holy Gospel could have been stated in a few, concise sentences; short and to the point but the wisdom of the writers have given us a story that few will forget.

In the end: the woman leaves her bucket signifying that she has understood that Jesus is the living water, welling up from within. She also becomes a kind of “missionary” in that many Samaritans came to believe in Jesus “for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

If this Holy Gospel were done as a stage play Jesus would never have moved from the edge of the well and we would understand, too, that he is the “Rock of Ages from which flow life-giving waters of Eternal life!” Amen

March 3, 2018 – Saturday in the 2nd Week of Lent

Saint for the day: Katharine Drexel (Nov. 26, 1858 – March 3, 1955)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 – PS 103 – Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Yes, I shall arise and return to my father.”

 One of the “perks” that we get during Lent is the fact that the Church chooses the readings and pairs them up in ways that help us on our journey. In the ordinary time of the year we are usually going sequentially through various books of the Bible but in Lent the Church jumps around to give us specific readings that dove-tail each other so that they speak more directly to our struggle to follow the Lord more perfectly.

So, we hear the reading from Micah about how the Lord shepherds us and watches over our well-being. In the Gospel we are given the familiar parable of the “Prodigal Son” – which some commentators think should really be called, the “Prodigal Father.” No matter. What is important for us to see in this story is the unconditional love that God has for each of us no matter how badly we stray from His goodness. It might be good for us to read over the story and see how each character presented has some aspects that apply to our own lives. We are very much like the younger son who wants to step out on his own and not have to live a life of working the farm. But we also have many of the aspects of the older brother who begrudges the fact that he has never once turned away from his father. Resentment like that can kill the life of grace in us. We’re back to square one: God gives us free will and we can choose how we live out our lives. The beauty that we see in this story is that the father doesn’t ever say, “I told you that it would be stupid of you to run off like that.” Instead, he becomes lavish and throws a party. The key to this whole story is the fact that the son ends up saying, “What am I doing eating out of the pig trough when I have a father who will kill the fatted calf for me?” We need to swallow our pride and hear the words of that Weston Priory hymn, “Come back to me with all your heart.   Don’t let fear keep us apart.” But be careful. Don’t fall into the trap of resentment like the older brother but join in with the party – “for this brother who was lost has been found.” Amen