Thursday March 14, 2019 Conversion

Prayer discloses all the riches of God’s goodness to us. God cannot resist us when we turn to him in our misery, in our needs, in our joy, even in our silence when we don’t know what to say. But the reason for his generosity is not so much that we ask him, but that he is good. Others, even a father or a mother, may give because the person who asks insists. God gives because he is good. He is glad to give. He gives with joy. And he gives always more than is asked.

Opening Prayer
Lord, our God,
you are a generous Father,
who give us what is good for us
simply because you love us.
Give us grateful hearts, Lord,
that we may learn from you
to give and share without calculation
but simply with love and joy,
as Jesus did among us, your Son,
who lives with you and with us for ever.

Reading 1: Esther: 12, 14-16, 23-25
Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, 
from morning until evening, and said:
"God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. 
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.

"And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness."

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8
R. (3a) Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
and give thanks to your name.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
for you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Verse Before the Gospel Psalm 51:12a, 14a
A clean heart create for me, O God;
give me back the joy of your salvation.

Gospel: Matthew 7:7-12
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. 
This is the law and the prophets."

– That the Church may play wholeheartedly its role of interceding by making the needs of all people its own, we pray:
– That the people of God may pray not only when they are in trouble and need but also to express their admiration, praise and joy, we pray:
– That those who do not know to whom to turn to in their miseries may find the Lord in people who are good and compassionate to them, we pray:

Our Lord assures us today: “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” May we all be people who trust in prayer, and may Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

A photograph once circulated in which a father was playfully tossing his young son into the air. The father’s arms were open to receive the descending child, and a broad smile wreathed the face of the son. It was a picture of total confidence and trust. Today’s scriptures highlight the prayer of petition. In the reading about Queen Esther, a Hebrew in a Persian court, the stage is set for the extinction of the Jewish people. She turns to God in an ardent prayer for help. As the story unfolds, her prayer is heard. This liberation of the people from the threat of death is celebrated annually in the Jewish feast of Purim.
Of the four forms of prayer—adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and petition—it was once said that petition is the least noble since it centers so much on the petitioner. This is hard to accept in view of the great praise given this form of praise by Christ himself. In the New Testament, it is repeatedly given high commendation. The reason for this is that it is an expression of a key Christian virtue, the spirit of dependence on God, and our bringing our requests before God is wholly consonant with that spirit.
Christ says today that God’s attitude toward us is that of a loving father. If a son asks for bread he will not be given a stone, or for a fish and he will not be given a serpent. We are encouraged to bring our needs before the Lord; we will not be given a deaf ear.
It often happens in life that when faced with a critical situation, God becomes an afterthought. We turn initially in different directions for help. But we must be honest. If God is first in our life, then he doesn’t stand at the end of the line. In the course of human events, we first ask, then we seek, and finally knock to receive a response. This implies a certain perseverance. It all begins with conviction, the conviction that we are loved. If so, then we will certainly not be forgotten.

Wednesday March 13, 2019 Conversion

Even for pagans, even for those known for their cruelty, like the people that enslaved the Jews, it is possible to be converted. When the author of the Book of Jonah told this to the Jews, it was an astonishing message to them. For Jews, yes, but for pagans? Jesus seems to turn things around: pagans turn to God, but you, God’s people, don’t. Aren’t we Christians perhaps too smug too, thinking that we are God’s people, and therefore need no conversion?

Opening Prayer
Forgiving, merciful God,
we pray you for a good measure
of humility and honesty
to acknowledge before you and people
that we are weak and fallible men and women,
who often try to turn a blind eye
to our shortcomings and our sins.
Strong with the grace won in the hard way
by your Son on the cross,
we beg you for the courage
to seek your forgiveness
and to turn and return wholeheartedly to you 
and to serve you and people.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Reading: Jonah 3:1-10
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
"Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you."
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD's bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day's walk announcing,
"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,"
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
"Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. 
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish."
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Responsorial Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
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.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse before the Gospel: Joel 2:12-13
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart
for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel: Luke 11:29-32
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
"This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here."

– That God may give to the Church the courage to hear God’s call to constant conversion and renewal, we pray:
– That we may hear the call of the Lord to become ever more faithful to the gospel, we pray:
– That the Church and each of us may receive the call of prophets to change what is to be changed, we pray:

The trouble with us is that we sometimes congratulate ourselves on how good we are. Yet we are called to live the gospel more deeply, that it may be indeed good news for us and for the people around us. May God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Ninevites accepted his word and changed their lives. When Jesus’ contemporaries asked for a sign, he replied that the only sign to be given is that of Jonah. Just as Jonah preached to hard-hearted unbelievers, so to does Jesus. And what will be the effect of Jesus’ call to conversion of life? The tone of the Lucan passage read today indicates that Jesus did not see the fruit of his preaching as did Jonah. Indeed, foreigners who turned to God in the Old Testament (the queen of the South and the Ninevite population) stand on higher ground than Jesus’ contemporaries and can well stand in judgment on them.
The story of Jonah, contained in a short, four-chapter book, was written centuries after the city of Nineveh and its Assyrian population had ceased to exist. The story is an extended parable and should be read in that light. It underscores strongly Yahweh’s concern for all people and points forward to that age when all barriers between Jew and Gentile will fall.
We live in an age of ethnic and religious rivalry and intolerance. It is well to remember that there are narrow-minded and bigoted people in every faith. But they are not normative, nor are they representative of the faith as a whole. The readings this morning remind us of the universal character of our faith. Ours is a church that is termed catholic. Any shade of disdain or disrespect toward people of other beliefs has no place. We cannot forget the fact there was a strain of Catholic anti-Semitism in heavily Catholic populations that lasted for centuries. The Second Vatican Council has ushered us into an era of respect and dialogue.
If Jesus is the sign of Jonah, let us find ourselves with the Ninevites of old in hearing our call to love and understanding, as we stand on the side of acceptance.

Tuesday March 12, 2019 - Love of Neighbor – Encountering God in People

God speaks God’s word to people in many ways: first of all, God’s word-in-action, that is, God’s saving deeds; God’s words written down in the Bible again, more the language of action than of words; the words God speaks through other people, through prophets past and present, through human encounters. Above all, God speaks the living Word, Jesus Christ.
God’s word can be heard only and find resonance when it takes on flesh and blood – when it becomes incarnate – in the lives of people and vibrates with human thought and feeling. If so, one can respond to it with prayerful words of recognition and with the living prayer of deeds. Prayer is our echo to God’s word and so are our deeds.
In the Eucharistic celebration God speaks the word to us in the readings and he gives us the living Word in the Eucharistic bread.

Opening Prayer
Lord God,
you speak your mighty word to us,
but we cannot hear it
unless it stirs our lives
and is spoken in human terms.
Keep speaking your word to us, Lord,
and open our hearts to it,
that it may bear fruit in us
when we do your will 
and carry out what we are sent to do.
We ask you this through your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19
R. (18b) From all their distress God rescues the just.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol God’s name.
I sought the LORD, and the LORD answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
Look to the LORD that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor ones called out, the LORD heard,
and from all their distress the LORD saved them.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
The LORD has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress the LORD rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit the LORD saves.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.

Verse before the Gospel: Matthew 4:4B
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15
Jesus said to his disciples:
"In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

"This is how you are to pray: 

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

"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."

– That God’s word may be echoed in us in our prayers and in the good we do to others, we pray:
– That we may be always close to God’s living Word, Jesus Christ, and that he may be the center of our life, we pray:
– That we may be prayerful people, who pray not only for our personal needs but also for those of the Church and of the world, we pray:

God’s word must take shape in our lives. What we have heard, we must live. God’s Son must become visible and speak in what we are and do. May God bless you all for this, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We don’t have to invent a “prayer wheel.” It seems that every time a group prays together, prayers are always being added. Jesus today warns us against multiplying prayers and gives us an example of prayer in as direct and simple a fashion as one could imagine. His prayer is brief but very comprehensive.
Isaiah tells us today that the word of God does not fail. Nothing that God wills or executes is done in vain. It accomplishes its purpose just as surely as does the rain or snow. The prayer of Jesus is equally efficacious.
The Lord’s Prayer has two major divisions. The first part deals with God and his concerns. We pray that his person be honored and revered (“Hallowed be thy name”), that the full establishment of his kingdom, rooted in uprightness and justice be brought to fruition (“Thy kingdom come”). The second part of the prayer deals with our needs. It is remarkably encompassing. We pray that our daily needs be met (“Give us our daily bread”) that we overcome our faults and stand in grace (“Forgive us our sins”). In addition, we pray to be delivered from the final test between good and the powers of evil and find ourselves always on the side of God.
There is a Matthean caveat after the prayer, underscoring the importance of forgiveness. This oft-repeated warning never fails to touch our conscience. We can hardly ask God to forgive us if we fail to forgive others.
There are various moments in every day when we can pray the Lord’s Prayer. As the only prayer that Christ has taught us, it always has priority and is so all-embracing that any need can fit. The Lord has eyes for the just, and ears for their cries.

Monday March 11, 2019

Love of Neighbor – Encountering God in People

It is striking how the Bible insists, even in the Old Testament, that God is present where people love one another and do the works of mercy to one another. What we do to others is done to God. The Old Testament stressed love specially in regard to members of the chosen people, who were all to be considered as blood relatives, without excluding non-Jews. The New Testament extends this clearly not only to members of the people of God, but also to all people. The kingdom of God is present where people treat one another as brothers and sisters. Those belonging to the People of God have to bear witness to all that love exists and is alive, and therefore that God exists and is alive, by their love, particularly by their respect and concern for the weak and the fragile ones. It is by love of neighbor that we will be judged.

Opening Prayer
Lord, holy God, loving Father,
you give us the task to love one another
because you are holy
and you have loved us before we could love you.
Give us the ability to recognize your Son
in our brothers and sisters far and near.
Make us witnesses that love exists and is alive
and that you, the God of love,
exist and are alive now for ever.

Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18
The LORD said to Moses,
"Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

"You shall not steal.
You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another.
You shall not swear falsely by my name,v thus profaning the name of your God.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor.
You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.
You shall not curse the deaf,
or put a stumbling block in front of the blind,
but you shall fear your God.
I am the LORD. 

"You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.
Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty,
but judge your fellow men justly.
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD."

Responsorial Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15
R. (John 6:63b) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Verse before the Gospel: 2 Corinthians 6:2B
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him. 
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."

– For the many hungry for food and human dignity, that those who have more may provide them with what they need, we pray:
– For strangers and aliens, that we may accept them with all their differences, we pray:
– For the sick and for prisoners, people who are rarely visited, that we may show them our compassion and concern, we pray:

“What you do to the least of my brothers, you have done to me,” the Lord said to us today. This is a beautiful task, but it is difficult. May God bless you for it, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We have no trouble understanding the validity of the norms set forth today in Leviticus. The sinfulness of stealing, swearing falsely, defrauding, or being dishonest is something of which we are well aware. They are basic norms of morality, important for any Hebrew to observe in his daily community dealings. Their applicability to our own lives is equally clear.
However, the move to the Gospel teaching represents a quantum leap. This is not a question of harm done to anyone but is rather a question of doing good. This is the heart of the Christian ethic, as captured so well in the Sermon on the Mount. Is any person in need (whether a member of the Christian community or not) to be ignored? It is not a question of avoiding injury but rather of being present to anyone in need. This may mean food, clothing, or comfort. The word compassion means “to suffer with.” And it is on that subject that the final judgment dwells.
The word today could not be clearer. Our personal lives, as well as the life of society itself, are kept at a high level if these norms of charity are observed. It is not that we neglect other teachings, it is just that we want to give Matthew 25 a high priority. The emphasis of Lent is on the importance of the “now.” Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.
Charity delayed is charity denied.
“Lord help us to judge rightly.” Much of our moral life is centered on the Ten Commandments. We review them before reconciliation and our act of contrition. But today’s Gospel has pointed out our authentic calling. Behold these Christians, how they love on another. Give us the light to see.


Re-creating Encounter

Jesus came to call sinners. It is they that need him, not so much the just, the righteous. It is the sinners who need healing. We are among them, and so we need healing. The Pharisees considered themselves just, but there was little mercy in them; their hearts were dried-up, and it is mercy that Jesus wants, not sacrifices. Jesus comes to encounter Levi-Matthew. Just a call, and Matthew leaves everything behind: his desk, his past. He is a new man, created anew by Christ. He lives now for the future. His converted heart will turn to others too, as he becomes an apostle. In this Eucharist Jesus comes to call us and to change us; he sits at table with us, as he did with Levi-Matthew.

Opening Prayer
Lord our God, merciful Father,
when you call us to repentance,
you want us to turn to people
and to build up peace and justice among us all.
According to your promise,
let us become, with your strength,
lights for those in darkness,
water for those who thirst,
re-builders of hope and happiness for all.
May we thus become living signs
of your love and loyalty,
for you are our God for ever.

Reading Isaiah 58: 9B-14
Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
"Repairer of the breach," they shall call you,
"Restorer of ruined homesteads."

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
and the LORD's holy day honorable;
If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice.
Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Responsorial Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. (11ab) Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

Verse before the Gospel: Ezekiel 33:11
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord, but rather in his conversion, that he may live.

Gospel Luke 5:27-32
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.V I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."

– That Christians may experience the joy of receiving forgiveness from God and from forgiving one another, we pray:
– That people entangled in sin and who don’t know how to get out, may encounter Jesus, who came as a healer of hearts, we pray:
– That we may all learn that it is a part of our conversion to turn to people and to bring them justice and love, we pray:

Through Jesus, God creates people anew by forgiving them. He makes an apostle out of a typical sinner, Matthew, the tax collector. As forgiven people, we help God to restore people by our goodness, by helping others. May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Repairer of the breach. Restorer of ruined homesteads. Those designations would have been apt and welcome in 2005 when a mammoth hurricane destroyed a large part of the city of New Orleans. Many people did their part in the midst of such a calamity, but when all was said and done, there was still much reconstruction to do.
But there are other breaches to repair, ways in which we can respond honorably to disaster, especially moral failure. And Isaiah today outlines some of them. In the matter of living God’s law there is a strong incentive: happiness in doing what God wills. This happens when the Sabbath is not a burden, but a delight. It is commended to honor the Lord’s day by not following our own will nor speaking of others with malice. If we do so, all will be well. The avoidance of false testimony and improper speech, coupled with a sense of outreach and care for the sick—such are signs of a correct conscience, worthy of a holy people.
When Levi gave a reception for Jesus, he was not discriminating of the people who attended. He was, after all, a tax collector and would certainly have had friends among such people, who were agents of a foreign, pagan power. Tax collectors were not table companions for believing Jews.
But once again Jesus breaks the barrier. It is precisely for the unwanted that he has come. They are the sick in need of help, much the same as the sick in the emergency rooms of our hospitals. Jesus sees his role largely in terms of care for the morally ill. They, not the well, need the physician.
Today’s readings are a call to an upright life. Of course, we all fall short. But we still return to the task. In doing our best, we add to the collective good. We help repair the breach. And if we feel a bit wounded at time, the physician is there to see us through.


Why Fast?

People in the Old Testament ask: What is the use of fasting? God seems not to be near when they fast. The prophet tells them because real fasting consists in justice and love. Since God has made a covenant with his people, that covenant comprises also justice and love from one person to the other. In the gospel the disciples of John, who fasted, were asking the disciples of Jesus why these didn’t fast. In other parts of the gospel Jesus gives an answer similar to that of the prophet, but now Jesus said that because he has come and is with his disciples, they should rejoice rather than fast.

Opening Prayer
Lord of the Covenant,
we have not to fear your judgment
if like you we become rich in mercy
and full of compassion for our neighbor.
May we not only know that you ask us
but practice with sincere hearts
to share our food with the hungry
and to loosen the bonds of injustice,
that through us your light may shine
and your healing spread far and wide.
Be with us in your goodness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Reading: Is 58:1-9A
Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
"Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?" 

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Responsorial Psalm: 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19
R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
"Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight."
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse before the Gospel: Am 5:14
Seek good and not evil so that you may live,
and the Lord will be with you.

Gospel Mt 9:14-15
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
"Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast."

– For a Church that is concerned that no one is trampled upon or exploited, we pray:
– For the leaders of nations, that they may being justice to their people and care for the poor, we pray:
– For all of us, that we may have eyes, ears and hearts for people in need, also for those who try to hide that they are distressed and poverty-stricken, we pray:

March 7th - Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Fidelity Brings Life -- Time of Penance

Faithfulness is not easy except if we are intensely committed to a person we love. If we are loyal, we share in the joys and trials of the other person and we never lose our serenity or basic happiness. This is also true in our relationship with God, which we live most intensely if we are strongly dedicated to Christ. We follow him in his passion to rise with him in joy. For if we are with him, even death brings life and happiness.

Opening Prayer
Lord our God,
you love us and you invite us
to share in your own life and joy,
through a personal decision.
Help us to choose you and life
and to remain ever loyal
to this basic option
by the power of Jesus Christ, your Son,
who was loyal to you and to us,
now and for ever.

Reading 1 Dt 30:15-20 
Moses said to the people:
"Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you,
a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

Responsorial Psalm
R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Verse before the Gospel: Mt 4:17
Repent, says the Lord;
the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Gospel Lk 9:22-25
Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised."

Then he said to all,
"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?"

Ash Wednesday

Today’s Readings: Joel 2: 12-18, 2 Corinthians 5: 20 - 6:2, Matthew 6: 1 - 6, 16 - 18

Lent begins today. It is a “favorable time,” a season of grace. We are called to go up with Christ to Jerusalem, the place where he will suffer and die before he will rise in glory. This means that we are called with him to suffer and die to ourselves, to sin and to give up the evil in and around us, so that we can rise, individually and as a community, to a deeper Christian life, become more available to God and to people, and capable of rendering service with love. The way is conversion, repentance, summed up in today’s gospel as almsgiving, that is, caring for people; as praying, that is, listening to God’s word and giving it a response of love and commitment; and as fasting, that is, giving up our selfishness. We express our willingness to be converted when, after the gospel, we receive the ashes.

December 30 - Affirm the New Year

What would you like to experience next year? What do you want to change? If you knew that everything were possible and available to you, what would you ask for? Now is the time to invest your energy into the coming months by affirming what you deserve. As we angels have emphasized, anything that you wish for is manifested through the words that you speak, think. or write.

Today, put together a mental or written list of your dreams for the coming year. Turn every goal into an affirmative statement, asserting that your wish is already fulfilled. Thank the universe for the manifestation of these desires, expressing gratitude that the answers to your prayers have exceeded your expectations.

Affirmative Prayer for Today

Thank you, God, angel;s, and the universe for fulfilling all my desires, which are ______________ .I have released worries and doubts about the manifestation of these dreams. I have opened my heart, mind, and arms to receive all the good that the universe offers me now.

December 29 - Review Your Year

We angels would like you to spend today reviewing the past year with you. What stands out in your mind when you think about it? What did you learn? What are some of your favorite memories? What would you like to change and experience in the coming year?

We can help you prepare for the future by taking an honest look at the past. Every situation offers opportunities for you to learn and grow - sometimes the most painful times inspire the greatest changes and improvement in your life.

Regret nothing about the past months. Each moment was a masterpiece, since you lived it as God’s magnificent child. Use your memories as a catalyst to prepare and propel you into an even more amazing future.

We angels are with you through every day of every year, ready to help you upon request.

Thought for Today

I am God’s magnificent child. Every moment that I live is a masterpiece of learning and growth. I use this year’s lessons as a tool and platform for an even more amazing time to come.