Friday, 29 March 2019

Shema (Fri of Week 3)


Friday of the Third Week of Lent


Hosea 14:2-10 ; Mark 12 : 28-34


WE BESEECH thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants: and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty; to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.





Which is the first?


In replying to the scribes question, “which is the first of all commandments”, Jesus answers with the two great commandments, that is, to love God and to love our neighbour. It is easy to overlook the solemn call that precedes the first of the two great commandments: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.” These are the first ten words of the Ten Commandments. Our Lord does not leave them out nor abbreviate them. They are significant therefore. In these ten words comes the starting point or the basic principle for all the rest of the commandments.

What is it saying? It is saying that God loved us first. God had chosen to reveal Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to make them a great nation. And when God’s people were enslaved He revealed His special care for His people through the prophet Moses who led God’s people to the Promised Land. As the adopted people of Israel we too have been loved first by God. By the waters of baptism He has delivered us from the slavery of sin; and He has poured His grace into our hearts through the Holy Spirit He has given to us.

The first ten words tell us that God loves us first, and the Ten Commandments that follow show us how we are to love God back. The two Great Commandments of Jesus summarise the Ten Commandments and indeed the whole Law. The commandments to love God above all, to worship no other gods, to keep God’s name holy, and to keep the Sabbath, are how we are to fulfil the first Great Commandment. The second Great Commandment is the pouring forth of this love of God to our neighbour by obeying the rest of Ten Commandments: honouring our father and mother, not killing human life, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness, not lusting after others, not coveting our neighbour’s goods. Obedience to these Ten Commandments is how we show we love God who loved us first. Disobedience of these Commandments is a grave sin against God (and can be in certain conditions mortal sins). To disobey any of these commandments is to shut ourselves off from God’s life of grace. This is not because we are being punished by God for not keeping his ‘rules’, but because the action we have chosen to do by our own free will takes us deliberately away from God’s life of communion and grace.

God loved us first and He has even sacrificed Himself on the Cross for our salvation, to save us from our sins. Our response to His love is obedience in love – obedience to the Commandments He has given us.



Psalm 81

Exultate Deo

SING we merrily unto God our strength : make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob.

2. Take the psalm, bring hither the tabret : the merry harp with the lute.

3. Blow up the trumpet in the new-moon : even in the time appointed, and upon our solemn feast-day.

4. For this was made a statute for Israel : and a law of the God of Jacob.

5. This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony : when he came out of the land of Egypt, and had heard a strange language.

6. I eased his shoulder from the burden : and his hands were delivered from making the pots.

7. Thou calledst upon me in troubles, and I delivered thee : and heard thee what time as the storm fell upon thee.

8. I proved thee also : at the waters of strife.

9. Hear, O my people, and I will assure thee, O Israel : if thou wilt hearken unto me,

10. There shall no strange god be in thee : neither shalt thou worship any other god.

11. I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt : open thy mouth wide, and I shall fill it.

12. But my people would not hear my voice : and Israel would not obey me.

13. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts : and let them follow their own imaginations.

14. O that my people would have hearkened unto me : for if Israel had walked in my ways,

15. I should soon have put down their enemies : and turned my hand against their adversaries.

16. The haters of the Lord should have been found liars : but their time should have endured for ever.

17. He should have fed them also with the finest wheat-flour : and with honey out of the stony rock should I have satisfied thee.



ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting out sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


Thursday, 28 March 2019

Exorcism (Thurs of Week 3)


Thursday of the Third Week of Lent


Jeremiah 7:23-28 ; Luke 11 : 14-23


WE BESEECH thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants: and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty; to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.





Exorcism


More than the healings that Jesus performed, the exorcisms unsettled the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. It is probably also true that many people today find this claim that Jesus was an effective exorcist a bit difficult to accept.

Angels, both those for God and those who rebelled, are not mythical but real. They are not an optional addition to the Catholic faith; their existence is a dogma of the faith (fourth Lateran Council). Throughout Scripture we read of the reality and presence of angels. Every human being has a guardian angel assigned to him from birth to death – Jesus assured us of this (see Mt 18:10, Lk 16:22). Christ is the centre of the angelic world – they are His angels (CCC 331).

Angels, like human beings, are free creatures i.e. they have free will. Unlike human beings, angels being pure spirits exercised this free will at their creation – some rebelled and we call them demons. Just as good angels seek to help us, so demons seek to harm us by tempting us to sin.

No faithful, baptised Christian can be demon-possessed against his will, but it is possible to be severely oppressed, and of course all of us will be tempted. The Church, which is the mystical Body of Christ, has the power to free those who are ‘possessed’ by performing exorcisms that deliver the person from the dominion of the demon (or demons). Major exorcisms are performed only by priests whom the Church has authorised to do so, but minor exorcisms can be performed by any priest in the course of his pastoral ministry (e.g. an exorcism is performed during the rite of baptism).

Now all of this is difficult for many people to accept because most people view the world in a materialist way, that is, the world is only really what you can see and touch. But we who accept the Christian revelation of God include in that acceptance that the devil is real, otherwise the Bible lies (see 1 Pet 5:8). If we reject the existence of the devil and his demons then we also make Christ to be a fool, for He clearly said they are real and He clearly exorcised demons from people. In the gospel today He challenged His critics; they had to decide whether His power over demons was from God or the Devil. So let us be alert and be watchful for the devil prowls seeking whom he may devour, we are to resist him firm in our faith. And above all we know that in Christ we have nothing to fear, for as long as we are faithful to our Saviour Jesus Christ, no other power can have dominion over us.



Psalm 95

Venite, exultemus

O COME, let us sing unto the Lord : let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.

2. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving : and shew ourselves glad in him with psalms.

3. For the Lord is a great God : and a great King above all gods.

4. In his hand are all the corners of the earth : and the strength of the hills is his also.

5. The sea is his, and he made it : and his hands prepared the dry land.

6. O come, let us worship and fall down : and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

7. For he is the Lord our God : and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

8. To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts : as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness.

9. When your fathers tempted me : proved me, and saw my works.

10. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said : It is a people that do err in their hearts, for they have not known my ways;

11. Unto whom I sware in my wrath : that they should not enter into my rest.



ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting out sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Unreserved Obedience (Wed of Lent 3)


Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent


Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9 ; Matthew 5:17-19


WE BESEECH thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants: and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty; to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.



 
The Agony in the Garden - "...not my will be done, but thine"

Unreserved Obedience


The way of Christ is the way of obedience. Jesus was obedient to His Father always. Today we are reluctant to obey unreservedly. Somehow it seems a backward or unsophisticated thing to do. Modern man is surely much more subtle and learned to not need to obey like that? So instead of obeying freely we reserve the right to question everything and decide whether to obey or not – and we do this even with God! We have made ourselves the masters and we do not like the idea of making someone else our master.

The way of Christ is obedience even when it means suffering. The way of Christ means saying with Our Lady, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” The way of Christ is obedience because it is obedience to an entirely trustworthy Person – God the Father. God the Father can always be trusted. Does a father give his son a stone when he asks for bread? Even if our Heavenly Father allows us to suffer we can be sure there is a very good reason for it and the outcome will be good for us.

Christ Jesus came not to abolish the Jewish Law. He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in His very self. When He died sacrificially on the cross He fulfilled and completed all the laws of ritual and sacrifice. In the New Covenant all ritual and sacrifice is focused on the Cross. The moral law of the Old Testament was not abolished but deepened. Not only was the moral law still to be obeyed in the New Covenant but it was located on a deeper and more demanding level – the level of the heart. We are to still obey the Ten Commandments but now at a much deeper and demanding level.

So are we willing to obey God the Father as Christ Jesus did? Do we trust the Heavenly Father? This was at the heart of the first sin, and thus at the heart of all sin – do I trust God the Father, or do I think He has a secret agenda against me? The serpent tempted Eve to believe the latter. Our Lady believed the former. She trusted and obeyed.



Psalm 147

Laudate Dominum

O PRAISE the Lord, for it is a good thing to sing praises unto our God :

yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.

2. The Lord doth build up Jerusalem : and gather together the out-casts of Israel.

3. He healeth those that are broken in heart : and giveth medicine to heal their sickness.

4. He telleth the number of the stars : and calleth them all by their names.

5. Great is our Lord, and great is his power : yea, and his wisdom is infinite.

6. The Lord setteth up the meek : and bringeth the ungodly down to the ground.

7. O sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving : sing praises upon the harp unto our God;

8. Who covereth the heavens with clouds, and prepareth rain for the earth : and maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains, and herb for the use of men;

9. Who giveth fodder unto the cattle : and feedeth the young ravens that call upon him.

10. He hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse : neither delighteth he in any man's legs.

11. But the Lord's delight is in them that fear him : and put their trust in his mercy.

12. Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem : praise thy God, O Sion.

13. For he hath made fast the bars of thy gates : and hath blessed thy children within thee.

14. He maketh peace in thy borders : and filleth thee with the flour of wheat.

15. He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth : and his word runneth very swiftly.

16. He giveth snow like wool : and scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes.

17. He casteth forth his ice like morsels : who is able to abide his frost?

18. He sendeth out his word, and melteth them : he bloweth with his wind, and the waters flow.

19. He sheweth his word unto Jacob : his statutes and ordinances unto Israel.

20. He hath not dealt so with any nation : neither have the heathen knowledge of his laws.



ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting out sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Costly forgiveness (Tues of Lent 3)


Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent


Deuteronomy 3:25,34-43 ; Matthew 18:21-35


WE BESEECH thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants: and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty; to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.



Forgiveness from the heart


Today Peter comes to our Lord enquiring about the limits of forgiveness. And he puts into words this very human approach to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a costly business. When we are the victim of someone else’s wrongdoing, when we have been hurt and paid a price for another’s transgression, then it is very hard to forgive. It seems like justice to say that there should be a limit to forgiveness. We should only have to go so far to forgive someone; after all it is not our fault that they sinned against us.

One thing we need to be clear about is that forgiveness is not about stopping our feelings of hurt, nor is it forgetting what has happened. We can’t of course just stop feeling hurt, nor can we just forget! What forgiveness is to do with, is our heart. Our Lord’s words at the end of the gospel (Mt 18:21-end) exhort us to forgive from the heart. It is within the heart that everything is bound or loosed (see CCC 2843). It is the heart that hands itself over to the Holy Spirit that will turn hurt into compassion, and memory into intercession. Then the heart of a forgiving man shares in the victory of the cross of Christ: “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.”

The parable in our gospel reading today should shock us. The enormous debt of 10,000 talents would have been millions of denarii. The unmerciful servant obtained forgiveness for his own debt but was merciless with a servant who owed him a far smaller debt. The point our Lord is making should not be lost on us. He has forgiven us much, and our Lord has done so freely and completely, requiring us only to be repentant, but in fact there is another aspect. If we freely benefit and partake in the infinite mercy of God, then that divine mercy needs to start flowing from us. We should not forget the covenant of mercy we enter into, whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

It is of course a great work we are called to. The world would counsel us to either “forget about it” or that “vengeance is sweet”. But the Lord’s way is divine mercy that has no limit (that’s the meaning of 70 times 7).

It might seem strange at times that the church encourages us to confess our sins so frequently, and to confess things that most other people would simply just forget about, but with a greater sense of our sinfulness and sorrow for our own sin comes a greater sense of the mercy of God. With that greater sense of His compassion for us, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we too can learn to forgive with a mercy that has no limits.



Psalm 25

Ad te, Domine, levavi

UNTO thee, O Lord, will I lift up my soul; my God, I have put my trust in thee :

O let me not be confounded, neither let mine enemies triumph over me.

2. For all they that hope in thee shall not be ashamed :

but such as transgress without a cause shall be put to confusion.

3. Shew me thy ways, O Lord : and teach me thy paths.

4. Lead me forth in thy truth, and learn me :

for thou art the God of my salvation; in thee hath been my hope all the day long.

5. Call to remembrance, O Lord, thy tender mercies :

and thy loving-kindnesses, which have been ever of old.

6. O remember not the sins and offences of my youth :

but according to thy mercy think thou upon me, O Lord, for thy goodness.

7. Gracious and righteous is the Lord : therefore will he teach sinners in the way.

8. Them that are meek shall he guide in judgement :

and such as are gentle, them shall he learn his way.

9. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth :

unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

10. For thy Name's sake, O Lord : be merciful unto my sin, for it is great.

11. What man is he that feareth the Lord : him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.

12. His soul shall dwell at ease : and his seed shall inherit the land.

13. The secret of the Lord is among them that fear him : and he will shew them his covenant.

14. Mine eyes are ever looking unto the Lord : for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.

15. Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me : for I am desolate and in misery.

16. The sorrows of my heart are enlarged : O bring thou me out of my troubles.

17. Look upon my adversity and misery : and forgive me all my sin.

18. Consider mine enemies, how many they are : and they bear a tyrannous hate against me.

19. O keep my soul, and deliver me : let me not be confounded, for I have put my trust in thee.

20. Let perfectness and righteous dealing wait upon me : for my hope hath been in thee.

21. Deliver Israel, O God : out of all his troubles.



ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting out sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


Monday, 25 March 2019

Lady Day (The Solemnity of the Annunciation)

The Annunciation (Lady Day)


WE BESEECH Thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts: that,as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel; so by his Cross and Passion we may be brought unto the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


Annunciation by John William Waterhouse



The angel announced that Mary was “full of grace.” This fullness of grace means that there was nothing in the way of Mary’s relationship with God; nothing contrary to her relationship with God. And not only was she without sin, but she was without concupiscence, that is, inclination to sin. Mary was preserved from original sin. Unique amongst humankind since Eve, Mary came into the world without the burden of the Fall. She knew true freedom. She was free from finding sin attractive; however, this does not take away her free will. Mary had the capacity to sin but unlike Eve (who was also free of original sin and lived in harmony with God) Mary chose to obey God rather than disobey. St Irenaeus of the second century wrote:

The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.  (St Irenaeus of Lyons, Adv Haer 3,22,4)

To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary had to be the perfect door through which the perfect God could come into our imperfect world. Where Eve said, ‘No’, Mary said, ‘Yes’. Where Eve’s faith failed, Mary’s stood firm.

God’s purposes for Mary are also God’s purposes for all mankind. Mary shows us the summit of God’s success, for she is perfectly conformed to Christ by grace. She is the summit of God’s business of making Saints. She shows how high humanity can rise with grace.

Saints are made by love. Mary is the greatest saint because she was full of the most perfect love. She was full both of God’s love to Mary and Mary’s love to God. In Mary, God exalted a creature as much as any creature could be exalted. He gave to the “max” in Mary. And Mary gave to the “max” to God. She obeyed the first and greatest commandment, to love God with her whole heart, mind, soul and strength. She loved God simply and purely. God withheld nothing from her, and she withheld nothing from God: “Be it unto me according to thy Word.”

May her response to God be our response to God in the same fullness, simplicity, and purity. Amen.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Complacency (3rd Sunday of Lent)


Third Sunday of Lent


Exodus 3:1-8 ; 1 Cor 10:1-12 ; Luke 13:1-9


WE BESEECH thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants: and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty; to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


 

COMPLACENCY




Let us approach our readings today with reverence and holy fear! – And particularly this week because they speak to us of a very great spiritual problem that I think we suffer in our own time and in this part of the world. The problem that our readings today address, I suggest, is the problem of complacency. I suggest to you that Christians especially in Western Europe are generally far too complacent – and what God's Word says to us in the readings today, is that complacency can lead to downfall – spiritual ruin. They come as a strong warning!

One of the reasons that we have allowed all this to happen is because inside we have allowed our faith to be dulled. We don't like it when our faith makes us feel uncomfortable, when it stirs us up, when it challenges us. We don't like it. We like a faith that makes us feel comfortable. We like a faith that settles our disturbing feelings. What we want is just peace, an absence of conflict, within – that's all!

Brothers and sisters let me tell you today: that is NOT what God wants for you or for me! God expects you and I to bear fruit in our lives, good fruit (not okay, moderate fruit). God is who He is, but He is also a God who acts! He abhors complacency! He spits out of His mouth the luke-warm! He does not want luke-warm followers! It is all or nothing! In the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard, He says, through the words of the gardener, about the fig tree that is not producing fruit, “leave it one year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.” Yes He has mercy and gives it one more year! But there could come a time when He will say, “Cut it down.”

St Paul referring to the lesson that we ought to learn from the Israelites who perished in the wilderness, and never reached the Promised Land, says, “All this happened as a warning... The man who thinks he is safe must be careful that he does not fall!”

We think God is a good chap, He won't really judge us, He is a God of love, and love means He will not give us a hard time. That is not true! Love actually means He WILL give us a hard time if we are complacent. Love means He is saddened and angered by our sins! He is angered because our sins disfigure us, and distort the image of God within us. His anger is actually good news for us because it means He really cares about us! Does a mother or father show their love for their children if they let their children continue in sinful, destructive behaviour? Of course not! They are angry with their children's sinfulness! Love makes them angry! They really care! God loves us more than we can imagine – but that also means that in this way God is angered by our sins.

And complacency is a great sin of omission. We like to think it is a little sin – but it is not. For evil to triumph it requires only that good men do nothing. Not doing what we could have done. It is being lukewarm about our faith – it is about avoiding anything that disturbs us, anything that offends, anything that brings conflict. Being lukewarm is being happy with a modicum of contentment and avoiding anything that disturbs that. Being lukewarm about our faith means we will avoid letting people know our beliefs, especially the beliefs that offend others! Being lukewarm means we hide our faith under a bushel. We only get it out on certain occasions; otherwise we carry on as if everything is okay - that we are nice and inoffensive people!

Unless we become Catholics who are not complacent, but who have ardour for our faith, Catholicism and Christianity will continue to decline in Europe. There is a battle going on, and our complacency means what we want to do is avoid conflict, avoid showing that we object to what is going on, avoid showing others what our faith means. Complacency means we tend to drop our weapons: we tend to not persevere in prayer when it becomes difficult, it means we tend not to grow in knowledge of Scripture lest we hear God speak an uncomfortable word to us, it means we do not have a care to increase our knowledge of our faith because then it will present us with too many challenges and require too much time and energy of us. Complacency therefore means we surrender our weapons! And of course without weapons we are bound to try to avoid conflict!

Let us approach the readings today with holy fear! Let us listen to St Paul saying that the Exodus is a warning to us all. God heard the cry of His people in oppression in Egypt. He extended His arm against the Egyptians with mighty wonders, and through Moses led His people through the waters of the Red Sea to the Exodus. There He instructed them on how to live their lives. But time and time again they rebelled, they were disobedient, they were wayward, they did their own thing as soon as Moses' back was turned! And St Paul tells us that we should see this as a warning for us all, that many of them perished before they reached the Promised Land! We need to hear the words of our Lord today, “unless you repent you will all perish as they did.”

If there is only one tendency to sin that we do something about this Lent, brothers and sisters, may we deal with any complacency we might have!           

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.