Friday, March 30, 2012

4/1/12 - Domingo de Ramos - Marcos 14,1-15,47

         Escuchamos una meditación muy larga de la palabra de Dios en la Pasión de Jesucristo hoy. Entonces, voy a dar una meditación corta sobre nuestra celebración del Domingo de Ramos. Para escuchar la proclamación de la Pasión de nuestro Señor del Evangelio de San Marcos, es importante para imaginar nuestra presencia en este lugar, en las calles y los barrios de Jerusalén. Como seguidores de Jesucristo, somos participantes y espectadores como los demás. 
        En la narración de nuestro Evangelio, muchas personas han tomado muchas decisiones en sus vidas de fe – muchas decisiones para muchos razones.  Jesús tomó la decisión para seguir su camino a su cruz, para seguir la voluntad de Dios, para seguir su identidad como el Hijo de Dios.  Jesús conocía que era un camino peligroso.  Pero, él tomó su decisión en el amor y la compasión que tenía para nosotros, para todo el mundo. 
         Afuera de Jesús, había otras personas en las calles de Jerusalén este día.  Ellos hicieron decisiones sobre su fe y su destino también.  Judas tomó una decisión para ser traidor a su Maestro. Y Judas podía tener muchas razones para justificar su decisión, pero había un elección humana por su parte.  Y Pedro, la piedra, decidió negar al Señor tres veces, decisiones humanas también.  Poncio Pilato tuvo una  decisión, y en esta decisión, Pilato firmó la sentencia de muerte de Jesucristo.
         Nosotros tenemos decisiones y elecciones humanas cada día en nuestro camino de fe.  Podemos seguir con los valores de nuestra fe católica.  Podemos seguir el camino de la cruz con Jesús, el camino de salvación.  O podemos negar el amor de Jesucristo en nuestra vida, podemos destruir la confianza que nuestros hermanos en Cristo tenemos en nosotros.  Podemos tener solidaridad con Cristo y su cruz, o podemos vivir afuera de su camino.  Es nuestra decisión.  

Cross made of palms by Beth Alleman
Parishioner of All Saints Parish
Belzoni, Mississippi

Palmettos - which we used for Palm Sunday
Steven Stoner, a parishioner and local farmer,
got the palms for us from the swamps that are so
numerous in our part of Mississippi. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

4/1/2012 - Palm Sunday- Mark 11:1-10

       Palm Sunday today is our entrance into Holy Week, a very special week for us as Catholics that is really at the heart of what we believe.  For the past 5 weeks, we have been starting mass in silence, as we got down on knees to begin our Eucharistic celebration together as a community of faith.  From that moment of silence at the beginning of the mass, we can tell that these days of Lent for us as Catholics are so different than the rest of the year. During Lent, the Church has called us to accompany Jesus to the cross, to pray, to give certain things up in our lives, and to reach out to others in a special.  During this holy season, we have been called to look inside our hearts to see the ways we need to change.  Today’s mass on Palm Sunday, however, marks a tone that is very different from the rest of the masses that we’ve had during Lent, as we started this morning with a grand procession, a procession that marked Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. 
         We might not think about the two different processions that were going on in Jerusalem on that same day almost 2000 years ago. The one procession that we celebrate today was a celebration that the poor and the common people of society attended, a procession of Jesus riding a donkey down the Mount of Olives.  Jesus and most of his followers had arrived from the rural area of Galilee into Jerusalem for the Jewish holy days.  The other procession on the other side of the city involved Pontius Pilate, the military governor of this region of the Roman Empire.  Even though Pilate’s procession is not recorded in the Gospel of Mark that we hear from today, the followers of Jesus would have been well aware of this procession, as the Roman governors of Judea always arrived in Jerusalem for the major Jewish festivals.  While Jesus and his procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God, the other procession proclaimed the power and might of the Roman Empire.  These were very different processions altogether. 
         Where do we fit into in this story?  We can choose to follow Jesus’ procession with our hearts, with our minds, with our souls. That is what we try to do today as we wave palms and as we process in with Jesus in his entry to Jerusalem.  Or, we can make another choice altogether: we can pay homage to the secularism of our modern world that tries to claim our allegiance, that tries to claim our hearts and our souls.  We have honored our Lenten journey through the promises and disciplines that we have undertaken this holy season.  Yet, today, Palm Sunday, inaugurates Holy Week and the Triduum of services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil mass on Saturday night. The Church calls the Triduum “the culmination of our entire liturgical year.”  This week is a very special week for us in our Catholic faith.  While our secular world has all kinds of other events going on, while schools schedule sporting events and other activities, while we have work and so many other scheduled events pulling at our attention and our time, it is important for us to make time to journey with Jesus this week, to have the events of his passion, death, and resurrection really penetrate our hearts and make a difference in our lives.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

3/30/2012 – Friday – 5th week Lent – John 10:31-42

        Our Gospel from John today tells us about how some of the people wanted to stone Jesus, how they wanted to kill him because they thought that he spoke blasphemy, because he told the people that he was God, not a man.  So often in John’s Gospel, the people misinterpret the words of Jesus, or they just can’t make that leap of faith in believing who he truly is. 
         Believing is a grace, a grace that God gives us.  I read an article by a Protestant minister who lives in the Chicago area, who is tired of people approaching her and telling her that although they consider themselves spiritual, they really don’t have any inclination to be associated with an organized religion, that it is not really for them.  I think that is a common attitude for many young people to have in our modern world.  However, we can see in the Gospel how people many times either accepted him or rejected him as a community.  The Bible also shows us how the disciples of Jesus and the early Church after his death formed a community of faith that grew and journeyed together.  And I am always so edified how we as members of the Church support each other and walk together as believers no matter what is going on in our journey, in both good times and in bad.   
         We hear in the Gospel how many started to believe in Jesus when they came to him on the other side of the Jordan where John the Baptist was first baptizing people.  May we come to the Lord in our faith.  May we ask God to help our unbelief.  

3/29/2012 – Thursday – 5th week Lent – Genesis 17:3-9; Psalm 105:4-9

         We hear from Genesis today as we get close to Holy Week.  Our reading from Genesis tells us about the covenant God made with Abraham, with God promising to be faithful to Abraham and his descendants, making Abraham the father of a great nation.  We have been hearing a lot about covenants lately, as our first reading from last Sunday’s mass talked about the new covenant that God would write onto the hearts of the people, a covenant that he expressed through the prophet Jeremiah.  We hear about covenants so much during Lent because Jesus is our new covenant, because the salvation Jesus brings us through his death and resurrection is our new covenant. 
         “The Lord remembers his covenant forever” – the psalmist expresses great confidence in this statement in Psalm 105.  I remember that in some of my darkest moments as a missionary, both in Ecuador and in Canada, I took things one day at a time, walking by faith each step of the way.  Sometimes we need to take it one day at a time.  Sometimes that is the best we can do.  But God never forgets the covenant He makes with his people, that He makes with us. 
         “Look to the Lord in his strength, seek to serve him constantly.”  May we truly believe the words of our psalm today, placing our trust in our Lord. 

3/27/2012 – Tuesday – 5th week of Lent – Numbers 21:4-9

      Today, in our first reading from the book of Numbers, we hear a story from the Old Testament that was referred to in the Gospel on the 4th Sunday of Lent, when Jesus referred to the time that the Israelites complained in the desert, when the Lord sent serpents to punish them.  At the Lord’s command, Moses then put the image of a bronze serpent on a pole so that the people would look at it and not die of those snake bites.  We, too, might want to complain, to moan and groan about the struggles we go through on our journey.  Yet, the Lord is with us and will help us get through the ups and downs of life.
         Up until 1969, until the time that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were implemented, today, March 27, was the date that we celebrated the feast day of John of Damascus.  John lived from the mid 7th to the mid 8th century.  John is remembered for treaties he wrote, primarily in support of the use of icons as a tradition of our faith.  At the time, there was a strong movement that went against the veneration of icons.  John was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1883, and is considered one of the last of the Early Church Fathers. 
         I found this quote from John of Damascus, which I think is good for us to hear on our Lenten journey:  “Repentance is the returning from the unnatural to the natural state, from the Devil to God, through discipline and effort.”  May we continue in our Lenten promises and disciplines.  May the prayers and intercessions of the saints and the graces that God give us in our lives give us the strength and courage to continue on our journey.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

3/25/2012 – Sunday – 5th Sunday of Lent – Jeremiah 32:31-34, Psalm 51

Today, we are celebrating the 5th Sunday of Lent. We have one more week to go before Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week.  As we’ve been continuing our journey through this holy season, I’ve been thinking about the history of Lent and how it ties into our present-day observances.  Lent has its roots in the early Church right after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when a time of fasting and preparation for Easter was observed.  Irenaus of Lyons, one of the Doctors of the Church, wrote about this time of preparation in the late 2nd century.   By the time of the Council of Nicea in the early 4th century, when Christianity became an officially recognized religion in the Roman Empire, the 40 days of Lent was already a tradition.  The 40 days of Lent not only alludes to the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert, but also the 40 days that Moses spent on the mountaintop with God, and the 40 days that the prophet Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb. 
This 40 days of Lent is a time when we look inside our lives, when we look inside of our hearts to see how we need to change and renew ourselves.  We often think of the heart as the source of love and emotion in our modern western world.  However, in ancient Israel, the heart often symbolized the vital life force within a human being.  Thus, writing God’s laws and his new covenant on the human heart meant that it became a part of our very being, not something imposed externally.     
Think about all the laws we have in our lives that call out to us.  We have the laws of God, the laws of the government, and other laws as well.  In fact, now in our country, we see the Catholic Church standing up to the government and our lawmakers to laws that we see as unjust and against God’s laws.  I was with Bishop Latino earlier this week for the priests council; he was expressing his concern for the Health and Human Services mandate that would force our Catholic institutions to pay for contraception for individuals, a mandate that would attack the freedom of religion in our country, the freedom both Catholic individuals and institutions have in living out our Catholic faith.  Bishop Latino also mentioned the immigration law that just passed in the house in our state legislature, a law that we were advocating against when we gathered for the Catholic Day at the Capitol in Jackson.  Monday, I attended a demonstration at the state capitol against the execution of two men in our state just this past week. We still have a law in our state that allows for the death penalty, which our Church opposes as being against the Gospel of Life.  One of these young men who was executed, Matt Puckett, converted to Catholicism while in prison.   
While we think of all these laws that have influence on our lives, Jeremiah was talking about God writing his law on the hearts of the people.  Jeremiah was prophesying in a time right before the exile to Babylon where he saw the people going against both the law of God and the will of God.  Jeremiah warned them about how they were breaking God’s covenant, about how they were following the false prophets in their society.  Jeremiah spent a lot of time challenging, confronting, and chastising the people of Ancient Israel, but included in the 52 chapters of the book of Jeremiah are several chapters called the book of consolation, in which he provides the people hope, in which God expresses his fidelity to his people.  Our reading today comes from those chapters of consolation. 
And that brings us to our own journey through Lent.  Perhaps there are times when we have strayed from God, when we know our lives of faith have gotten off the track in some way.  We can stray from God in both big ways and little ways, and we all know how those little ways can add up.  We have a very wonderful psalm today that continues with theme of the heart that we hear in Jeremiah.  The psalmist writes: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.”  We hear in psalm 51 a believer who addresses God with true contrition and humble repentance for his sins, a believer who wants to be transformed, made new, and cleansed from all that keeps him from God.  God asks us to have that same introspection and humility that the psalmist has today, to look inside of our hearts, to see what is keeping us from living a holy life. 
          As I mentioned, next week we will celebrate the beginning of Holy Week with Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph.  The triumph of our salvation and the journey to the cross – these are two elements that are essential to our faith and to understanding our relationship with Jesus, to understanding our journey through Easter and Lent.  As we continue our 40 days in the desert, we might want to look at what is written in our own hearts, if it is God’s law or if is from the messages that we hear from our secular world.  Indeed, we may find ourselves as a point on our journey where we are struggling against God’s laws, seeing them as something that is externally imposed on us, rather than something that is a part of our very being.  We are called to open our hearts to God in order to make ourselves into a new creation, to have new life in our Savior Jesus Christ.  May we continue to open ourselves to that process as we continue on our journey during Lent.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

3/25/2012 – el quinto domingo de Cuaresma – Jeremías 32, 31-34; Salmo 51 -

      Estamos caminando con Jesús en el desierto a su cruz durante los cuarenta días de Cuaresma. La Iglesia nos llama a practicar las disciplinas de oración, ayuno, y limosnas.  Tal vez, en estas semanas de Cuaresma, podemos tener una experiencia muy profunda, una experiencia muy eficaz y muy edificante.  Pero, muchos de nosotros estamos en un lugar en nuestra vida donde estamos perdidos, donde estamos buscando la presencia de Cristo en nuestra vida, y no podemos encontrarlo en ningún lugar.
Dios está con nosotros en la realidad de nuestra vida.  En esta realidad, escuchamos el mensaje del profeta Jeremías esta tarde. El profeta nos habla de la nueva alianza que tenemos con Dios, de la nueva alianza que Dios establecería con su pueblo. El Señor pondría su Ley en la totalidad de nuestras vidas – El va a escribirla en la profundidad de nuestros corazones. Por Jeremías, Dios nos dice: “Todos me van a conocer, desde el más pequeño hasta el mayor de todos, cuando Yo les perdone sus culpas y olvide para siempre sus pecados”. Dios va a perdonarnos de nuestros pecados. Dios no habla sobre su castigo, sino por su perdón.
Jeremías profetizaba en Israel durante una época muy dura en su historia.  El pueblo no escuchaba la voz de Dios en esta época.  El pueble ha abandonado su ley y sus mandamientos.  El pueblo ha escuchado los profetas falsas de su sociedad.  Y en los 52 capítulos de Jeremías, el profeta hablaba mucho sobre la ira de Dios contra su pueblo.  Pero, también, Dios habla hoy sobre su amor infinito, un amor que puede perdonar y olvidar todo nuestro mal, todo nuestros pecados.
Pero, necesitamos una respuesta a este mensaje que Dios nos da.  El salmista contesta – “Dios, crea en mí un corazón puro, renuévame por dentro con espíritu firme; no me arrojes lejos de tu rostro, no me quites tu santo espíritu.”  El salmista es humilde y arrepentido.  El reconoce la autoridad de Dios en su vida.  El reconoce sus culpas y quiere su perdón.  Podemos orar las palabras de este salmo cuando queremos arrepentir de nuestros pecados, de nuestros delitos.  Podemos orar estas palabras para pedir una conversión al Señor, para implorar su misericordia y su compasión.
     En la realidad de nuestra vida, en la realidad de nuestros pecados y nuestros sufrimientos, no podemos olvidar la realidad de Cristo en estas semanas de Cuaresma.  No podemos olvidar nuestro Señor, que se hizo hombre, que vivió y sufrió y murió y resucitó para que nuestros pecados.  En la luz que Cristo llevó a nuestras vidas, tenemos una participación en su resurrección y en su vida eterna.

Friday, March 16, 2012

3/23/2012 – Friday of 4th week of Lent – Psalm 34:17-21, 23

     “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” – this is the refrain we hear in today’s psalm.  The psalmist goes on to say that “the Lord confronts the evildoers,” that the Lord hears the just when they cry out.  There are times in our lives when we are brokenhearted, when illness or death or divorce or failure leaves a void in our lives that seems to ache forever.  It seems like life will never be the same again, and maybe it won’t.  But one day the pain give way to new hope, even though it does not seem like it never will.
         The reflection in Give Us This Day, the daily readings that I have been following, talks about the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of mothers and grandmothers in Buenos Aires, Argentina that witnessed the disappearance of their children, husbands, and grandchildren.  It is estimated that more than 20,000 people were kidnapped by the government and were killed.  But the mothers did not stand idle in their anger, frustration, and brokenheartedness.  They demonstrated in the main plaza in front of the governmental buildings and they continued to ask the military government about what happened to their loved ones.  Eventually, the military government lost public approval and they stepped down from its position of power.  The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo still exist today – I met with some of them when I studied in Argentina back in 2002. 
         When we are brokenhearted, we are told to have confidence in the Lord.  And I always tells all of you to reach out to the Lord in your pain and sadness, to unite the sufferings that you are enduring with the sufferings that Jesus went through.  The Lord does reach out to the brokenhearted in a very special way.  May we never forget that.  

3/22/2012 – Thursday – 4th week of Lent – Exodus 32:7-14

       We hear a lot from prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah during Lent.  We have also had some first readings during the daily masses from the book of Exodus.  Today, we hear about the displeasure of the Lord because of the way the people had abandoned their Lord.  Here the Lord had led them out of slavery, here he was setting down the commandments and laws that he wanted the Israelites to follow.  So, when the Lord was present to Moses on the mountaintop, the people were rebelling and were worshipping an idol.  Moses stands up for the people of Israel, he intercedes for them, and the Lord relents, he doesn’t wipe them off the face of the earth like he could have.  
         We might want to think about the Lord’s love and mercy when we want revenge ourselves.  You might have heard that last week our state legislature passed a very vindictive anti-immigration bill last week.  We have the right to have laws and to enforce them, but Bishop Latino sees this bill as very vindictive and mean-spirited.  We need to work toward a fair and just immigrant policy in our country that the federal government is will to enforce.  We need to search our hearts for what is right, but we also need to remember the Lord’s love for the poor and for the people he held out of slavery in Egypt. 
         Yes, we need to remember the Lord’s love and mercy for his people.  And we need to stand up for that love and mercy in our lives.  

3/18/2012 – el cuarto domingo de Cuaresma – Juan 3:14-21

        Para creer en Jesucristo no es algo muy fácil.  Pero, para ser su seguidor no es una decisión que podemos hacer sin consecuencias.  Podemos mirar que dice en el Evangelio de hoy: “El que cree en El, no será condenado. Pero el que no cree, ya está condenado, por no haber creído en el Hijo único de Dios.”  Son palabras muy fuertes. 
Escuchamos muchas voces en nuestro mundo moderno.  En estas semanas antes de Pascua, estamos en el desierto con Jesús.  La Iglesia nos dice, en verdad Cristo nos dice, que tenemos las disciplinas de oración, ayuno, y limosnas durante estos 40 días.  Tenemos la llamada durante Cuaresma para examinar nuestros corazones y la relaciones que tenemos con Dios y con nuestros hermanos, para mirar la manera que necesitamos cambiar nuestra vida.  El mundo moderno dice que es tanto y sin mérito para hacer las disciplinas de Cuaresma.  Un hombre me dijo que el va a ayunar de brócoli esta Cuaresma porque no le gusta el brócoli.  No tenemos las disciplinas de Cuaresma para ponerlos en ridículo.  Para nosotros como católicos, no es suficiente para creer.  Para creer es la base de nuestra fe.  Pero necesitamos vivir las enseñanzas de Jesucristo – necesitamos ponerlas en práctica.  Nuestra fe no es una teoría – es nuestra vida.
“Porque tanto amó Dios al mundo, que le entregó a su Hijo único, para que todo el que crea en él no perezca, sino que tenga vida eterna.”  Este verso del Evangelio de Juan es tal vez el verso mas conocido de la Biblia.  Podemos decir en la luz de este mensaje de Dios que no somos capaces por nosotros mismos de justificarnos en nuestra fe cristiana.  No somos capaces de santificarnos o de salvarnos.  Necesitamos decir, necesitamos entender sin reservación, que nuestra salvación depende primeramente de Dios.
Pero, necesitamos reconocer nuestra responsabilidad en nuestra fe también.  Nosotros, como seres humanos, tenemos una participación en la vida de fe, en el Reino de Dios.  Tenemos que dar respuesta a todas las gracias que Dios nos ha dado. Nuestra participación en Cuaresmo, nuestra acompañamiento con Cristo en su vía cruces, en su 40 días en el desierto, es una manera para vivir nuestra fe, es una manera para dar gracias a Dios y para reconocer la autoridad de Jesucristo en nuestra vida. 
Me gusta mucho el mensaje que San Pablo nos da en la lectura de la carta a los efesios hoy día.  “La misericordia y el amor de Dios son muy grandes; porque nosotros estábamos muertos por nuestros pecados, y El nos dio la vida con Cristo y en Cristo. Por pura generosidad suya hemos sido salvados.”  En la misericordia de Dios, en su amor, estamos caminando con Jesús esta Cuaresma.  Cuando estamos cayendo en nuestro camino, cuando estamos sufriendo, estamos con Cristo en su viaje también.  Si, por pura generosidad de Dios, hemos sido salvados.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

3/19/2012 – 4th Sunday of Lent- Cycle B - John 3:14-21

      There was a man named Nicodemus who was a powerful Pharisee in Ancient Israel.  He heard about Jesus, about Jesus’ teaching and ministry.  Nicodemus was intrigued.  He wanted to meet Jesus, to talk to him, to learn from him, to question him about his faith.  Yet, Nicodemus chose to come to Jesus in the cover of night.  Perhaps he was afraid of this getting out, that he had a connection with Jesus, and thus come under suspicion by the high-ranking Jewish authorities. 
         Nicodemus gets into a theological discussion with Jesus about being born in the Spirit and receiving new life in faith.  We come at the very end of this discussion in today’s Gospel. Jesus gives Nicodemus this curious message, saying: “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must Jesus as the Son of Man be lifted up also, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."  We remember the journey that the people of Israel took with Moses in the desert to the promised land, how they became impatient and angry along that journey.  They complained to God and to Moses.  God sent serpents to the desert wilderness; they bit and killed many people.  The people saw the errors of their ways, asking God for mercy. They took responsibility for their rebellion against God.  So God told Moses to make the image of a serpent out of bronze, putting it on a pole.  Those who had been bitten by the snakes could look at the image of the serpent and live.  When the Jews heard Jesus refer to Moses lifting up the serpent in the desert, they remembered how the serpents first brought the people death and God’s judgment, but how the image of the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up brought life, mercy, and a new beginning.
From this passage in John, most people remember one particular verse.  John 3:16 has become one of the most well-known passages in the Bible and part of our popular culture.  People have referred to this passage as “the Gospel in a nutshell.”  Tim Tebow, the popular quarterback who is admired for his Christian faith, wore the citation John 3:16 on the black strips under his eyes in a championship football game while playing quarterback for the University of Florida.  We all remember this verse, that God loved the world so much, that he gave us his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Jesus might not perish, but might have everlasting life.  Biblical scholars say that this verse in its original Greek connotes more than just “believing in” Jesus, but rather “believing into” Jesus, which means handing ourselves entirely over to Jesus, handing our entire lives to him, rather than just believing in him and what he stands for.  This is more than an intellectual assent – it is more than believing and having faith.  It is a radical change in our lives.  This verse in John 3:16 is not about just believing in a way of life, it is not just believing in Christ’s crucifixion – it is rather about following him in his way in all that this entails. 
Today, the fourth Sunday in Lent, is referred to as Laetare Sunday, from the Latin word “rejoice.”  The introit, the entrance antiphon for today, starts out: “Rejoice O Jerusalem, and come together all you that love her; rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow.”  It is indeed sorrowful to join Jesus on his way to the cross during Lent, to travel through the desert, to look inside of our hearts, recognize our sins and the ways we need to repent.  Lent is not to be something to be taken likely.  I have actually heard some people who are not Catholic mock our Lenten season and our Lenten disciplines, saying “Well, I would give up breath mints for Lent, or I would give up broccoli, something I really dislike.”  Lent is an important part of our journey of faith.  If we take it seriously, it will have an affect on us, it will help us on our journey.  One of the prisoners recently told me – Lent has been awful for me, Father Lincoln.  I am not feeling any closeness to God at all this Lenten season.  In fact, I don’t feel close to anyone.  And our reality of life can be harsh like that sometimes.  We may be struggling, or we may be in poor health, or we may be going through a grieving process from a divorce or the death of a loved one.  But God meets us in that reality.  In one of the versions of the station of the cross that way pray, when Jesus falls for the third time, when he’s lying collapsed on the cobblestones, drained of all strength, we can identify with him.  We can feel like we have no strength at all when we fall on our journey, we can feel despair, guilt and self-reproach.  Yet, we realize that our falls and our sins are not beyond the love of Christ.  Our faith will not keep us from falling sometime, will not keep us from feeling weary, but our faith will help us endure and carry on.  In the midst of that suffering, we are called to recognize the joy that still exists in our hearts, even if its just a glimmer or a sliver of joy.  It is a joy we have in the salvation that Christ brings to us through his death and resurrection.  Through our joys and through our sorrows, we come to a greater understanding about the Lenten journey that we are undertaking.
         Often in our society, a saying or a slogan can be repeated so much that it loses its richness of meaning and becomes just another part of popular culture.  But today’s Gospel is what our faith is all about.  As we journey to the cross with Jesus, as we continue our Lenten disciplines and our journey through the desert wilderness, may we see the light of Christ shining in our world, shining in lives, even in the midst of the struggles and ups-and-downs that characterize our daily lives.  Let us never lose sight of that presence that is with us.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3/16/2012 – Friday of 3rd week of Lent- Mark 12:28-34; Psalm 81:6-11, 14, 17

      “Shma Israel, Adonai elo – hey – nu, Adonai e – chad”  This is part of the Shema prayer that we hear in the Gospel today – “Hear O Israel – the Lord our God is Lord alone.”  This is a prayer that Jesus would have prayed on a daily basis as a practicing Jew in ancient Israel.  We can know that God is our Lord and master, but how does that affect our lives?  Through the psalmist, the Lord tells us:  “I am the Lord your God – Hear my voice.”  This might sound easy in theory, but in practice, it is not easy at all.  To know when the voice of God is calling out to you can be a tricky thing indeed.  When I was in seminary to study to be a priest, my classmates and I would struggle with God’s will for us as it pertained to our vocations.  I bet all of us would like to be able to hear God’s voice speak to us loudly and clearly, but it doesn't always work that way. 
         Our Lenten disciplines are supposed to help us on our journey, they are supposed to help us distinguish God’s voice in the midst of so many other voices. Through fasting, almsgiving, and praying, we are to open our hearts to God, to hear his voice, to recognize his authority in our lives.  As I said – easier said than done.  But we can’t give up.