Reflection – Pastors Notes:
If we are a Church that is starting to experience the consequences of an exile from the world our prayers should be the one similar to the pilgrims. We know where our journey starts but we don’t know where we will stay. Like the disciples being sent by Jesus, we may need to go two by two. We won’t be able to carry to much with us, perhaps our sandals, one tunic and a staff for the journey. We have to be sure that our staff is not for power, it should be a fragile one. We are just the real weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind (Mt 11:7). If someone asks for our shirt, we may as well give our tunic (cf. Mt 5:40), If we enter into holy ground, we may need to take our sandals off like Moses before the burning bush. (Ex 3:5). Yes, indeed, our prayer should be the prayer of the poor, of the naked of the one that has nothing to hide before the presence of God. Our prayer should be like the blinded Paul that allowed himself to be guided and instructed until the scales that were on his eyes fell down. (cf. Acts 9:8-19) Ours cannot be the prayer of the loner. We need each other to be able to recognize the face of God that becomes real in our relationship with others. The experience of journeying with our neighbour, the person that suffers our own sufferings, may be able to teach us that ours is not a unique experience, but the reality of the many.
2O18 February 18
First Sunday of Lent
First Reading. Genesis 9.8-15 “The waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
The Psalm 25 “Make me know your laws, O Lord
Second Reading: 1 Peter 3.18-22 “Christ suffered for sins once for all…in order to bring you to God.”
The Gospel: Mark 1.12-15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
The fatal and the Blessed Sin!
Thinking along Einstein’s saying, ‘every action has a reaction’, we may say, ‘every fatality has a blessing.’ It may seem strange. St. Peter reminds us today that Christ’s suffering for sin brought humanity to God. I think it was St. Augustine who called the original sin of the first parents, “Beata Culpa” , meaning O blessed fault! Augustin’s feeling good about the first sin was because of the plenitude of Grace that was brought about by Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world. Only because there was the first/original sin that Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son of God, took birth on earth as a human person. The fallen and corrupted flesh of humans was infused with divinity. We call this our time, after the coming of Jesus, the period of grace. St. Augustine visualizes this period as much superior and sublime compared to the period of fallenness before the coming of Christ. In his feeling of being bathed in Grace, especially after his conversion from the sinful life style, Augustine forgets or it becomes unfathomable for him to have the experience of Adam and Eve with the fullness of Grace before the fall. They were just in the household of God, the Holy Trinity. God created them in their (Trinity’s) image and likeness. The covenant of God with Noah after the flood was, ‘the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.’ In Christ Jesus that covenant was renewed as ‘humanity will never be totally deprived of grace’ that is, God’s love. In other words, God will never deny that humans are his beloved sons and daughters. That is what Jesus means when he said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.” The words of Jesus, ‘Repent and believe in the good news’ simply means, ‘grab and appropriate the kingdom.’ There is a clearly drawn graph/map to work out this process of appropriation. That is the way Jesus travelled from the manger at Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary in Jerusalem. From the time of our baptism onward we are on this route. Every year going through the liturgical cycle, we cover miles and miles in this journey. As we progress on this way the brightness of the light that we are following should grow and glow brighter on us. The best time in the cycle to intensify this glow and to have clear vision of the light is the season of Lent. We are already in it. Allow the light shine on us and let us rise and shine in its glow!
2O18 February 14
First Reading. Joel 2.12-18 “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly.”
The Psalm 51 “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.”
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5.20-6.2 “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled with God.”
The Gospel: Matthew 6.1-6, 16-18”When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
Calling out to God!
In today’s reading we find different types of calls. Prophet Joel, after narrating various events of God’s punishments of his people, calls them back to repentance, repair, and also to rejoice. He also brings to their attention the graciousness of God, who is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. Everyone, including infants at the breast of their mothers, are to join in the repentance process. People are prompted even to ‘provoke’ God, reminding him of his great deeds of mercy and favor in the past. The psalm is a call of the repentant and broken-hearted sinner for the same abounding mercy of God. The sinner is fully aware of his sinfulness.St. Paul, as an ambassador for Christ, calls upon the people to be reconciled to God. The reason or motive for this reconciliation is God’s making Christ sin for our sake. That is, Christ ‘became sin’ in order that we may be freed from our sinfulness. Jesus is inviting us in the gospel to the vision of the Father who watches over us and knows everything including our inner thoughts, desires, and motivations. The Father’s watchfulness is to reward us. The condition for rewards from the Father is that, just like the Father sees everything in secret we need to do every good deed only for the seeing of the Father and not of anyone else. Because of our sinfulness our desire is to get praise, acclaim, and appreciation. If with such motivation we do good deeds like praying, fasting, and almsgiving, our rewards are likely to be short-lived and limited. When we do these only for the seeing by God, our rewards are likely to be rich, plentiful, and everlasting. Today officially we begin this process of returning back to the source, to God, to our brothers and sisters and to our own selves. The ashes remind us of our sinfulness, our need for repentance, for God, for each other, and for recouping and reintegration of our own self. It reminds us of the abounding mercy of God. Repentance leads us to reconciliation with our own sinful past, reconciliation and repair of our broken relationships with our brothers and sisters, and eventually and as a consequence reconciliations and return to our God. “Repent, and return to the gospel”