Lenten Reflection Week 7: Luke 23:46


Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.

Well, it’s finally here – the last week of Lent. The weeks of sacrifice, prayer, almsgiving and service have all lead us to this point; ready to celebrate our risen Lord. But before we move on, we have one last reflection. Jesus’ very last words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”.

By His words here, Jesus shows us He dies just as He lived – committing Himself to all His Father had for Him to do.

So this week, let us reflect on our lives. Are we committed to God in this same way? Does whatever we do, first and foremost, glorify God? Please, let us think deeply on this. This isn’t a subject to be taken lightly or just passed over. It is of utmost urgency!

Have you ever had this question run through your mind, “What’s wrong with the church today?” I would guess most everyone has and here on the inter-net, it gets asked thousands of times a day. So first let us recognize that yes, something is wrong with the church……and that something is me. In other words, “remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. ” (Matt. 7:5)

If you asked everyone in your church the question, What’s wrong with the church today, (specifically) you would get a different answer from each on how to fix it. Why? Because we were made for relationship! If we were to live a life glorifying God and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ doing what the Bible says to do, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with the church today. So something is missing….it’s my commitment to you!

So maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe we should be asking, “What is wrong with me today?” Why am I not loving you as I love myself? Why haven’t I visited you when you were sick? or in prison? Have I helped you bear your burdens? Did I clothe you, feed you, shelter you in your time of need? Did I encourage you when you were discouraged? When you were down did I lift you up?

How can I blame on the “church” what I myself am unwilling to do?! The church is the Body of Christ and should be working together to build one another up – not just in the spiritual sense but in the everyday practical sense. Isn’t that what Jesus Himself did? Isn’t that what He calls us to do, meet people where they are at? Showing love, grace and mercy? Of course it is! So how committed to God are we? Answer truthfully.  Are we willing to commit ourselves to God the way Jesus was willing to? Are we willing to commit ourselves to each other as Jesus did?

Until we can honestly answer those questions with a yes, we will continue to ask the wrong question, “What’s wrong with the church today?

So in this last week of Lent, reflecting on Jesus’ words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” let us entrust not only our spirits to God the Father, but our earthly lives as well. Just like “His only begotten Son” did two thousand years ago, let us as adopted sons and daughters, continue in the way of our Brother and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be praise forever, amen.

Father, I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what You will. Whatever You may do, I thank You: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only Your will be done in me, and in all Your creatures – I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into Your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to You with all the love of my heart, for I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into Your hands without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for You are my Father.       Charles de Foucauld

Amen.

Lenten Reflection Week 6: John 19:30


When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

With just one more week left in this Lenten season, let us take a moment and look back on what we’ve finished/accomplished.

Jesus had a mission, a purpose, a goal He had to complete. Yet, He did many other things on His way to accomplish His goal. Jesus never lost sight of His main objective, but set an example of service for us to follow. An example of living for a purpose and with a purpose.

When Jesus uttered these words, “It is finished“, He knew He had fulfilled all the work His Father had sent Him to do (John 4:34, Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to finish His work” ). In it’s fullest sense, His work was to bring redemption for fallen humanity. Yet as He walked down life’s pathway He encountered fallen, broken, diseased sinners that needed not only spiritual life and forgiveness, but physical help, care, healing and love

I’ve heard it said, “Let us not be so spiritually minded that we are no earthly good.” As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to show our love for others, not just spiritually but in tangible ways as well. Did Jesus Himself not say, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” ? So, we can gather from this that if we don’t have love for one another, that we are telling the world that we are not His disciples?! Not only did Jesus give us this command but the apostles Paul and John, along with James, did as well.

  • This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others. Titus 3:8
  • If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. I John 3:17-18
  • If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? James 2:15-16  

As we ponder these verses for a moment, let us think about what we have accomplished in (the big picture):

  • Our lives
  • Our faith journey

And what we’ve accomplished in (the snap-shot):

  • Our Lenten journey

Have we moved closer to God through Christ this year? Have we moved closer to God through our prayer, fasting and alms-giving? Have we made or taken the opportunities to minister to those in need, either in spiritual or physical need? It isn’t to late to begin, or to get better – but to begin or get better we must!

I say this, not to overwhelm us or cause us any discouragement. So if you haven’t changed the world (or even your little corner of it) don’t worry, Jesus didn’t call us to be successful, He called us to be faithful.

So for this week’s reflection, let us examine our strengths and our weaknesses concerning our service to God and others. Setting our minds, hearts and actions to better serve our Lord through our actions for others (as Jesus tells us in Matthew’s gospel;  ” ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’ “). Remember, when we show compassion and truly love people, we instill in them hope. Isn’t this what God did for us through Jesus Christ His Son? (But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8). This is indeed our hope – redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb!

It’s a great privilage but a daunting task we have been assigned, yet we have His promise, “for nothing will be impossible for GodLuke 1:37.

Amen.

Lenten Reflection Week 5: John 19:28


After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.

This has been mentioned as fulfilled prophesy from Psalm 22:16 and/or Psalm 69:22. Jesus’ physical thirst is described vividly in 22:16, “As dry as a potsherd [a pottery fragment or a piece of sun-baked clay] is my throat; my tongue sticks to my palate;…”

As I pondered this for our fifth week of Lenten reflections, I thought about this thirst. Is it with this kind of thirst that Jesus commands us to ” hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6)? I believe it is.

I also thought back to earlier in John’s gospel when he quoted Jesus, “Let anyone who thirsts come to Me and drink..” (John 7:37) and that lead me to the Revelation of John, in which he writes of what one of the elders proclaimed, “They will not hunger or thirst anymore“. John’s use of “thirst” and “living water” appear throughout his gospel and the Revelation. So the most obvious question for us to ponder this week is, “Do I thirst for Jesus, the Living Water?”

In living out my call as a faithful disciple, do I “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? What does that mean? This means doing the will of God. As Jesus explains in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to finish His work.” That’s a very challenging task for us, isn’t it? If the two greatest commandments are “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt.22:37-39), isn’t this what we should be doing? Did not even Paul write that,”Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law“?

Is this what we thirst for? If it isn’t, don’t you think that we should sit down and evaluate our spiritual condition? For we can fool ourselves if we want, but God will not be fooled!

Now, doing the will of God can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the love of Christ and in the spirit of prayer. Doing the work of Christ means we express the love of Christ to others with acts of kindness and/or other practical helps. This can also be spiritual guidance. Remember, Jesus clearly states, “…without me you can do nothing.”

In these acts of righteousness and love, Jesus promises us we “will not hunger or thirst anymore“(Rev. 7:16) and that He will give us “a gift from the spring of life-giving water” (Rev.21:6). A faithful servant will receive his reward.

So this week let us consider to do at least one of the following: Corporal works of mercy or Spiritual works of mercy.

The Corporal works of mercy are:

  • to feed the hungry
  • to give drink to the thirsty
  • to clothe the naked
  • to visit the imprisoned
  • to shelter the homeless
  • to visit the sick
  • to bury the dead

The Spiritual works of mercy are:

  • correct those who need it
  • teach the untaught
  • give advice to those who need it
  • comfort those who suffer
  • be patient with others
  • forgive others who hurt you
  • pray for others

Don’t get discouraged! No-one does all these things, and no-one does one of these things perfectly. But if we do it with a willing spirit, a prayerful attitude and the love of Jesus Christ, miracles will happen!

O my God, I love You above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because You are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of You. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.     Act of Love

Amen.

Lenten Reflection Week 4: Matthew 27:46


And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This fourth saying of Christ from the cross is interesting in many ways. Two of which we will examine and reflect on for this fourth week of Lenten reflections.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is of course also found in Psalm 22. In fact several verses of this Psalm are quoted or alluded to in the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In an attempt to understand the depth of scripture, first I’d like to challenge the conventional interpretation , not doing away with it of course ( for that will be part of our reflection for the week) but attempting to understand the tangible with the intangible.

When Jesus cries out, My God, My God why have you forsaken me, why might/would He say this aloud? Who were the bystanders? Think about this for a second; was it not the “religious” leaders of the Sanhedrin (a mix of Pharisees and Sadducee’s), the ones who had just condemned Jesus a few hours before and turned Him over to the Roman authorities? These folk knew their scripture, maybe they didn’t know how to interpret it, but they certainly knew it. The common people who followed Jesus to Golgotha, Mary, John and a few other women, they probably knew their scripture, much more so than the Roman soldiers that were there.

When Jesus cries out the first line of this Psalm, maybe, just maybe He was calling out to these “religious” leaders one last time to repent. Upon hearing this, their minds race to recall the words and content of this Psalm. When they realize the similarities of it and what is taking place, they have a choice to make; to repent of their sin or be in denial of their sin. “This one is calling for Elijah.” This may have been their attempt to cover up what Jesus had just said. Anyone who may have been pondering the Psalm, might have heard this comment and thought to him/herself, “Oh I must have misunderstood what Jesus had said.”

My point in all this? Even from the cross, Jesus gives the opportunity for repentance. From the cross He prayed for the forgiveness of His persecutors, He promised salvation to a God-fearing penitent. He showed mercy and compassion toward His mother and placed His faith in John to care for her. And one last time He calls for repentance.

Next, I’m sure we’ve all heard the sermon, homily and/or the Sunday school lesson about how this is the moment that all sin – past, present and future –  was placed upon Christ. Thus the Father , who isn’t even able to look upon sin, has to turn away from His Son. Jesus, knowing this cries out, for His Father has never done such before.

So in this fourth week of Lenten reflections, let us think of how our sin separates us from God. For if God had to turn away from  “His only begotten Son” who “did not know sin” was “made to be sin,”  what must He do to us who are “still sinners” ? Let us also reflect on His call to repentance. Jesus knows what kind of people we are and He loves us enough to grant us salvation. But our salvation journey begins with a first step and that first step is repentance.

Oh God, create a clean heart for me; renew in me a steadfast spirit. Do not drive me from Your presence, nor take from me Your Holy Spirit. Restore my joy in Your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.   Psalm 51: 12-14

Amen.

Lenten Reflection Week 3: John 19:26-27


When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

As we’ve seen the past two weeks, Jesus is extremely forgiving and merciful….and this week is no exception. So far we’ve heard, Father forgive them… and Today you will be with me in Paradise. Now, we hear His words to His mother, Mary and His beloved disciple, John. “Woman, behold, your son” and “Behold, your mother.”

What are we to learn from this passage? They are, after all, the words of Sacred Scripture. They were written for a reason. Why put this in his gospel narrative? It’s the same John the Evangelist, that writes, There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written(Jn. 21: 25). What made this important enough to include and dismiss the others?

Of course, it starts with honoring your [father and] mother, one of the ten commandments. We also see the great mercy and compassion He has for others – as He’s suffering, again in extreme pain, He sees His mother, weeping her own tears of great pain (Lk. 2: 34-35) He did not want her to be alone and uncared for. So He gives her to the care of His disciple, John. Why would Jesus give His mother to one of His disciples? It was Jewish custom for family to care for family. Jesus surely brought about change as to religious customs, but didn’t try to implement change so much on the social or cultural ones.

I’ve heard said the reason was that His “brothers” (not holding to the teachings of the early Church Fathers of Mary’s perpetual virginity…even Luther, Calvin and Zwingli taught this) were not believers [in Christ] yet; but wouldn’t that change after His ressurection, wouldn’t He then return her to His family? No, Mary moved to Ephesus with John. I’m sorry…I’ve digressed. This is a Lenten Reflection. If you would like to know more about this teaching check out this and this

Let’s make this practical. We see Jesus’ concern for His mother and her well being in a physical sense and we see Jesus even place His “faith” in John to be able to accomplish this. Not unlike God the Father, putting His “faith” in Mary at the Annuciation.

Since God is relational ,we being made in His image and likeness, are relational as well. We are also called to, “… love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39). These aren’t just mere verses to memorize, or to glance over. It’s our responsibility to live them out! Jesus tells us in John 13:35, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” He’s not talking about lip service and no action here, He’s not talking about meeting two or three times a week telling each other, “I luv you“. The world can’t see that! They see us in their world – loving and caring for one another the way Christ loved and cared for others while He was here on this earth, and as He cares for us now; healing and restoring our soul.

So in this third week of Lent, let us put our love in action, as Paul reminds us in Titus 3:8 & 14, “This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others. But let our people, too, learn to devote themselves to good works to supply urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.

Openly loving and doing good for others in all the ways we can, is an opportunity for us to let “ [y]our light shine before others  that they may see [y]our good deeds and glorify [y]our heavenly Father. ”

Amen.

Lenten Reflection Week 2: Luke 23:43


He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

In this saying from the cross, Jesus assures a dying thief that he will be with Him in paradise today. What then is here for us to understand?

Some have used this verse as an argument against the necessity of Baptism, but a careful study of scripture shows this to not be true. This is however an exception to the rule of Baptism. When Peter or Paul preached, they didn’t preach, “Repent and be Baptized – if you want to, or think it’s doctrinally correct.” No! They preached, “Repent and be Baptized,” (Acts 2:38, Rom.6:3-4, Gal. 3:27, I Pet. 3:21).

Let us look at Jesus’ own Baptism. He was certainly not a sinner, and John didn’t even want to baptize Him. Yet, Jesus subjected Himself to John for baptism “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). So what can we amass from these two examples? I’m sure most would agree that *baptism follows repentance so that all righteousness be fulfilled.

We see fear and repentance in the thief’s confession before Christ, as he rebukes his fellow thief: “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

So, let us ask ourselves these questions:

  • Do we have a fear of God, or do we sin the sin of presumption?

What is the sin of presumption, you ask?

There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).CCC 2092

What is the fear of the Lord, you ask? When the thief ask the other, “Have you no fear of God,”this thief must have surely felt the  fear (as in reverence) of the Lord.

He who fears the LORD will have a happy end; even on the day of his death he will be blessed. Sirach 1:11

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; Psalm 111:10

The fear of the Lord is also a Hebrew term for religion. Now that’s something to think about, ain’t it?

In this second week of Lent, let us fear God and repent from our sin. It is the beginning of true wisdom, the fruit of true worship and the end is eternal life through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

* The Church teaches who can receive Baptism from the CCC:

1246
“Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is able to be baptized.”

The Baptism of adults

1247
Since the beginning of the Church, adult Baptism is the common practice where the proclamation of the Gospel is still new. The catechumenate (preparation for Baptism) therefore occupies an important place. This initiation into Christian faith and life should dispose the catechumen to receive the gift of God in Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.
1248 The catechumenate, or formation of catechumens, aims at bringing their conversion and faith to maturity, in response to the divine initiative and in union with an ecclesial community. The catechumenate is to be “a formation in the whole Christian life . . . during which the disciples will be joined to Christ their teacher. The catechumens should be properly initiated into the mystery of salvation and the practice of the evangelical virtues, and they should be introduced into the life of faith, liturgy, and charity of the People of God by successive sacred rites.”
1249
Catechumens “are already joined to the Church, they are already of the household of Christ, and are quite frequently already living a life of faith, hope, and charity.” “With love and solicitude mother Church already embraces them as her own.”

The Baptism of infants

1250
Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.
1251
Christian parents will recognize that this practice also accords with their role as nurturers of the life that God has entrusted to them.
1252
The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole “households” received baptism, infants may also have been baptized.

And the church also teaches the different types of Baptism from the CCC:

1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.
1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.
1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

 

Lenten Reflection Week 1: Luke 23:34


Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Just picture it; Jesus, after having been scourged  and made to carry His own cross to “the place of the Skull” [Golgotha in Aramaic, Kranion in Greek, and Calvary in Latin] prays this prayer to The Father.

In physical pain, unimaginable to most of us, He can ask for the forgiveness for His murderers.

How are we at this? Can we pray a prayer like this in our situation in life, or do we let circumstances override our relationship with God? Can we ask for the forgiveness of those who have hurt us, stolen from us unjustly accused us of….whatever? Can we even grant forgiveness ourselves?

In many way, if we are honest with ourselves, we know we fall way short in this area. As Christians, we should knowthat we are called “to share in the sufferings of Christ” (Phil.3:10) and to “bless those who persecute you, bless and curse not” (Rom.12:14). Yet we, in our pride [maybe?] and in our selfishness, think “I deserve better” and plot our revenge; we do not bless – we curse and never lift a prayer for our persecutors.

Have we become so callous as Christians as to not live by the words of our Lord, thinking He’d understand? Well, He won’t!

As Matthew 6:12 clearly states: and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and the Catechism of the Catholic Church expounds on in paragraphs 2840- 2842:

Now—and this is daunting—this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.
This petition is so important that it is the only one to which the Lord returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount. This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for man. But “with God all things are possible.”

. . . as we forgive those who trespass against us

This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us.

So, during this Lenten Season, let us reevaluate our relationship with God through Christ, by examining our relationships with others – in particular our forgiveness toward one another.

Here are a few more verses for us to reflect on:

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matt. 5:10-12

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, Matt. 5:44

If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. Matt. 14-15

                 Here is a Lenten prayer that we can pray as well:

Dear God, show us Your Face. Help us to listen, see, touch, taste and smell our way to You. In Your presence, You love us completely and all the wounds that life has inflicted on us close up. Teach us courage, so that we may hold fast to that which is good; and not render evil for evil. God, grant us Your gracious mercy and protection. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Amen.