The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Friday, March 25, 2011

3rd Sunday of Lent “A”

One of the best ways that we can help the catechumens, that is those who are called the elect after the celebration of the Rite of Election on the First Sunday of Lent, in the process of their conversion during Lent, is through the celebration of the rites called “Scrutinies”.

The scrutinizes are ritual celebrations which the church celebrates on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent. Basically, the scrutinies are communal prayers celebrated around the elect. The purpose of these prayers is to strengthen the elect to enable them to overcome the power of sin in their lives and to help them to grow in virtue.

When we scrutinize something it means that we examine it closely.
The community however is not the one that scrutinizes the catechumens;
It is rather the catechumens themselves who are invited to scrutinize their own lives and to allow God to scrutinize them and to heal them.

There is a danger when we as a community mistakenly think that it is only the elect who are sinners here in our midst and it is only the elect who are in need of conversion.
Rather each and every one of us are called to continuing conversion throughout our whole lives. Each one of us are invited to join with the elect in scrutinizing our own lives. Each one of us are invited to pray to God for the grace to overcome the power of sin that still infects our hearts.

Taking seriously this practice of scrutiny and conversion gives all of us a richer perspective on the common Lenten practice of "giving up something in our lives."
What we are to give up more than anything else is sin, which is to say we are to give up whatever it is that keeps us from living out our baptismal promises to the full.

Along with the elect we all need to approach the season of Lent asking ourselves what needs to change in our lives if we are to fully live the gospel values that Jesus has taught us.
As a whole community our journey throughout these forty days should be one of moving ever closer to Christ and to the way of life He has shown us.

The elect deal with sin through the Scrutinies and through the waters of the Baptismal font; but those who are already baptized deal with sin through the Sacrament of Penance.
The same kind of reflection that enables all members of the community to share in the Scrutinies should also lead all of us who are already baptized to properly celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation so as to renew their own baptismal commitment.

Lent is the primary time for celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, because Lent is the season for baptismal preparation and baptismal renewal. Early Christian teachers called this sacrament the "second Baptism.” Why?
Because one of the main purposes of the sacrament of reconciliation is to enable all of the baptized to start all over again to live the baptismal life in its fullness.

All of us who experience the loving mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation will then find ourselves standing alongside the newly baptized at Easter filled with great joy at the new life God has given all of us.
We all know that in the Catholic faith there are three traditional pillars of Lenten observance. Three things that Catholics normally focus on during Lent.

What are they? They are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
The key to understanding prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent is to see how these three things are all linked to our baptismal promises.

Take prayer for example: More time given to prayer during Lent will most definitely draw us closer to the Lord. We might pray especially for the grace to live out our own baptismal promises more fully.
We are invited also to pray for the elect who will be baptized at Easter and to continually support their conversion journey by our prayer for and with them.

We might also pray for all those who will celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation with us during Lent praying that they will be truly renewed in their baptismal commitment.
And then there is Fasting. Fasting means much more than just developing a means of self-control.
Fasting is often used as an aid to prayer, as the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God.
We may remember the first reading on the Friday after Ash Wednesday which points out something else about fasting.
Isaiah chapter 58: verses 1-9

We are told that the people are asking God to come near. They are calling out for just laws. They want to have their fasting and their penances noticed by God.
On the surface, they seem to be so religious, so pious and docile, but all the while they are neglecting to do what God really wants. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” they ask.

God, through the voice of His prophet Isaiah, gives them a powerful response, one they hardly expected. Instead of praise, they get condemnation.
O yes, they fast all right but at the same time they keep “doing their own things”. They do business on their holy days and oppress their workers.
They fast but at the same time quarrel and squabble and physically abuse the poor.

Is this what God wants? Is this real fasting and penance? Looking miserable, “hanging your head like a reed” in a show of humility, lying in the midst of sackcloth and ashes? Is it all these very pious acts that God cherishes and wants?
I remember when I was a kid in grade three at St. Paul’s Separate School in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Sister Anatole Marie had all of us write down what we wanted to give up for Lent.

As I recall it had to be something which was possible for us to give up, perhaps something which was normally good for us, but which would show that we were willing to part with this good thing as a sign of our willingness to convert, to change our lives and thereby to give up all the bad things in our lives.
I wrote down that I wanted to give up carrots and peas for lent.
Sister asked me why I would give up carrots and peas. I told her “my mom said carrots and peas were good for me”. And so I decided that they would be a good thing to give up.

Sister then asked me if I liked carrots and peas. I said “No, I hated the taste of them, but because they were good for me, I was willing to give them up for lent.”
Needless to say Sister helped me to make a proper adjustment as to what I was going to give up for lent.
The kind of fast that the Lord wants us to make is something altogether different than just giving up candy or cigarettes.

The words of Isaiah were explained to us. What God wants is not for us to make a big show of what we were willing to sacrifice for lent.
It is rather to share what one has with those who do not have. For example, to share one’s bread (money and goods) with those who were hungry.

And to act kindly towards those whom we normally ignored or did not like.
Also it was pointed out to me that we were being called to conversion. To acknowledge that we all are sinners. That we all need to turn away from our sin and to turn towards God.
I remember just before Lent Mom asked each of us kids at the supper table what we planned to “give up” for Lent.

My brother Tim, who was about 6 years old at the time, was a notorious tease. He was forever teasing his little sister Jen who was 4 at the time.
He would steal and hide her doll. He would break the points of all her coloured pencils so that she couldn’t do any colouring. He would tie her shoe laces together so that she couldn’t put on her shoes. Etc Etc.
Well, when it came to his turn, my little brother Tim announced that for Lent he was going to be nice to his sister. No more teasing. Needless to say, Mom and Dad were both pleased with that answer.
About two weeks went by. At the supper table Dad asked each of us how our Lenten promises were coming along.

When he asked Timmy how he was doing with his promises not to tease his sister, Tim said “I haven’t teased Jenny even once.” And the smile on Jenny’s face verified this as a fact.
However Timmy then added “but, I can hardly wait for Easter”.
That’s not exactly what Dad wanted to hear.

How often do we in our own lives give up something for lent. Something we know we should not be doing in the first place. It doesn’t do us much good to give up beer for Lent only to get drunk on Easter Sunday. Fasting is important because it helps us to see how blessed we are. Fasting is important because it helps us to realize that there is nothing that we hunger for that God can’t provide. Fasting teaches us, once again, that God is God and we are not.

Fasting teaches us that we can do without the things we’ve given up, and that God can provide for us in much richer ways. Fasting should be linked not only to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, but also to those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures. In fact our fasting should be linked to those who are in need for any reason.

Thus fasting, too, is connected to living out our baptismal promises. By our Baptism, we are charged with the responsibility of showing Christ's love to the world, especially to those most in need.

We must love our neighbour. Love of our neighbour which falls easily under the general heading of almsgiving, along with fasting and prayer, is one of the traditional ways of preparing our hearts for Easter during Lent.
Reaching out in love and compassion to those in need and to treat every single person with respect and dignity – that is what is required of us. That is what God wants us to do. “Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over.”
What wound? The wound of our sinfulness, our lack of love and sense of responsibility. The wound of our hypocrisy and false religion.

After doing all that, when we cry out to the Lord, He will answer: “I am here.”
Almsgiving is a sign of our care for those in need and an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given to us.
Works of charity and the promotion of justice are very important parts of the Christian way of life we began when we were baptized.

Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving – all of them done in the spirit of love. We are to do just as our Lord did.
We are to follow His example. We are to love even our enemies. We are to love even sinners.
And this is the one theme that runs through all three of today's readings. It is a very impor¬tant and comforting theme. You could say that it is the heart of the Good News. That theme is: we are loved by God even in our sins.

We see this in the First Reading: in spite of the ingratitude and grumb¬lings of the people, God doesn't write off His people, but instead shows His love for them by providing water for them in the desert.
What is the message contained in the second reading? St. Paul says, 'What proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.' And, of course, we see the message in action in the Gospel.
Jesus' approach to this outcast woman was ever so gentle. He didn't force Himself into her life.
In fact, He began from a position of weakness. He began with a request for a drink of water. In this way He disposed her to receive the gift He wanted to give her.

He treated her with great respect. From the start He was looking into her heart, yet He did not make her feel bad. She felt accepted and understood.
No one ever paid such close and loving attention to her before. Jesus explained her life to her more sympathetically than she'd been able to explain it to herself. Before she realised it, she had shared with Him the whole story of her sad and confused life.
Christ meets us where we are. He says to us what He said to that lost woman: 'If you only knew the gift that God wants to give to you.'
We find it very difficult to admit our poverty, weakness, and most especially we find it difficult to admit that we are even sinners. Because of this, because we refuse to even consider that we are sinners, we unable to receive the 'gift of God'. The gift that Jesus wishes to give us.
How can we turn away from sin if we can’t even acknowledge that we are sinners in the first place.
The woman went away greatly enriched as a result of her encounter with Jesus. Yet He didn't give her anything. On the contrary, He asked something from her.

In doing so He awakened her to her own riches, to the 'gift of God' within her. He showed to her a sense of her own worth and dignity. As a result, she underwent an extraordinary inner transfor¬mation. A recognition of her own sinfulness. Then, a conversion, a turning away from her sin.

In the heart of all people there is an indestructible core of goodness —the image of God.
It is on this “Image of God” that the future has to be built. This way¬ward woman possessed this core too. Jesus was able to put her in touch with the “Image of God” that was within herself.

Christ meets us where we are. He knows our deeper thirst — the thirst of the heart, which ultimately only God can quench. For this deeper thirst we need another kind of 'water', water that Jesus said He could give and wanted to give. What is this water? It is the life of God bubbling up inside of us.
This discovery of the “Image of God” within us is like a spring of living water within us. A spring from which we can drink and refresh ourselves. A spring which bubbles up into eternal life.
How do I think God sees me during this Lenten season? What am I doing in response to God’s call to come to His help in my brothers and sisters?
When we practice our Lenten observances it should not just be giving up something for Lent or doing something good for someone. We don’t have to choose between one or the other.

In fact, today’s liturgy points out that we should actually do both. Give up something for Lent and also do something positive to help my brother and sister.
In this way we are not only turning away from sin but also we are doing what God commanded us to do – Love God with our whole hearts and love our neighbour as ourselves for the Love of God.

Jesus said to her “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but the one who drinks of the water that I will give will never be thirsty. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

God Bless you.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette
Praying to the god of anti-homophobia at Catholic school board |

TORONTO, Ontario, March 22, 2011 ( - The Toronto Catholic school board, the largest in Canada, opened a workshop to develop their policy on equity and inclusive education earlier this year with a prayer calling the homosexual inclination a “manifestation of [God’s] goodness.” The revelation has Catholic parents calling foul and pleading for the bishops of Ontario to have another look at the equity policy.

The prayer, read at the January 24th meeting, asked Christ to “give us all the grace to own our sexual identity, whatever its orientation, as another manifestation of your goodness.”

“Give us the vision to recognize and reject the homophobia around us and in our own hearts, as well,” it added.

The revelation heightens concerns that some at the board are using the equity policy, which comes as part of the Ontario government’s mandatory and controversial equity and inclusive education strategy, to subvert Catholic teaching in the area of homosexuality.

Sr. Joan Cronin, head of the Ontario bishops’ Institute for Catholic Education (ICE), and the bishops’ lead on implementing the equity strategy, was present at the meeting. Asked about the prayer at her offices today, she said “no comment.”

Last month, the board voted down several amendments from trustee John Del Grande specifying that equity and inclusion must be implemented “in a manner consistent with the Catholic faith and Catholic moral teaching.” Trustees are expected to pass the policy sometime in April.

Entitled ‘Prayer in Honor of Those Whom Jesus Loved’, the prayer was authored by Sr. Joan Chittister, who is renowned for promoting positions contrary to Catholic teaching on such issues as abortion, homosexuality, and women’s “ordination.” The prayer was written as a response to a 1999 notification from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which denounced the writings of the founders of the illicit pro-homosexual New Ways Ministry.


March 25th - The Solemnity of the Annunciation

The story of the Annunciation, meaning the announcing, from the Latin annuntiare, is told in Luke's gospel. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will conceive a Son, and his name will be Jesus. His greeting, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you" has echoed down through the ages in many prayers, and is known as the "Hail Mary." Mary is initially confused as to how she will bear God's Son, seeing as she is a virgin. The angel then explains that the Holy Spirit will come upon on her. This is why when we recite the Nicene creed we say "by the power of the Holy Spirit, [Jesus] was born of the Virgin Mary and became man." The Apostles Creed likewise affirms that Jesus was "conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit." Thus, the Feast of the Annunciation is the beginning of Jesus' miraculous life, and it begins with the theotokos conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit's power.

Mary's response to the angel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word," (Latin: ecce ancilla Domini; fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum) is a statement of humble faith, and a model for how we are to respond when God calls us to do what seems impossible. This response is called Mary's fiat, from the Latin word meaning "let it be done." The Catechism addresses the significance of Mary's faith in relation to her role as Christ's mother:

By pronouncing her "fiat" at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body (973).

The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary dates back to at least the 6th century, and is mentioned between AD 530 and 533 in a sermon by Abraham of Ephesus. In the West, the first authentic reference is in the Gelasian Sacramentary in the 7th century. The tenth Synod of Toledo (AD 656), and Trullan Synod (AD 692) speak of the Annunciation feast as universally celebrated in the Catholic Church. In the Acts of the latter council, the feast is exempted from the Lenten fast.

The oldest observance of the day is on March 25, although in Spain the feast was at times celebrated on December 19 to avoid any chance of the date falling during the Lenten season. March 25 is obviously 9 months before Christmas, the birth of Jesus. Scholars are not completely sure whether the date of the Annunciation influenced the date of Christmas, or vice-versa. Before the Church adopted fixed days of celebration, early Christians speculated on the dates of major events in Jesus' life. Second-century Latin Christians in Rome and North Africa tried to find the day in which Jesus died. By the time of Tertullian (d. AD 225) they had concluded that he died on Friday, March 25, AD 29 (incidentally, this is an impossibility, since March 25 in the year AD 29 was not a Friday). How does the day of Jesus' death relate to the day of his conception? It comes from the Jewish concept of the "integral age" of the great Jewish prophets. This is the notion that the prophets of Israel died on the same dates as their birth or conception. Therefore, if Jesus died on March 25, he was also conceived that day. The pseudo-(John)Chrysostomic work de solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis nostri Iesu Christi et Iohannis Baptistae accepts the same calculation. St. Augustine mentions it as well. Other ancient Christians believed Jesus was conceived on March 25th for another reason: they believed (based on Jewish calculations of the period) that the creation of the world occurred that day. Thus, it was fitting that the one who makes us new creations was conceived on the day the world was created.

Thursday March 24

Scripture: Lk 16: 19-31

In today’s Gospel Jesus addresses the Pharisees by presenting a parable that shows the stark contrast of the rich man’s wealth and Lazarus’ poverty. The rich man completely focuses on himself - every day he is impeccably dressed and eats lavishly. He has no regard for anyone. Of course he does not recognise that someone very close to him urgently needs his help. This attitude of the rich man reminds me of our human tendency to be personal. We speak in terms of my house, my property, my money to use as I please. The poor, we are often told, help keep us on track, remind us that our wealth/talents are gifts not only for ourselves but for others too.

This Gospel passage brings to my mind a conversation that I had with a mother. She shared her experience of deep loneliness and sense of failure towards her children. She longed to converse with them, to hear what was happening with them, to share in their joys and sorrows. But everyone in her family was always too busy about his/her own relationships or too tired to share their space with her. She would make herself available and even open to talk but it would only leave her exhausted in the end because she was the one driving the conversation. She agonised over this situation for a long time and sought advice from friends and family. Eventually, she came to terms with the reality and learnt how to let go of her children and accept and love them as they were. She felt she “was carried by angels to be with Abraham”. Her security was no longer threatened. I could identify with this mother: we are created not to be alone, but to be loved; not to be users of one another but to be partners in this world.

The rich man however did not understand this. He was not a bad man; he just was not aware of Lazarus’ difficulty; his apathy and selfishness blinded him. He was so distracted by the events of his own life that he was unable to see. It is he who created the great gap between them – his blatant refusal to recognise the needs of the poor man was his great sin. He did not understand the value of building relationships and how it could keep him in good stead in the future and therefore as a result “he died and was buried”.

The nation is usually outraged, and rightly so, when we hear of the neglect and abuse of children while their parents are out having a good time. This kind of parental behaviour is condemned and never tolerated. In today’s Gospel story, Lazarus is the victim of neglect and abuse at the hands of the rich man who was in a position to help but instead chose to treat himself in his own riches while Lazarus languished on his doorstep feeding on the scraps that fell from his table.

St Luke tells us today to be in solidarity with the poor who suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of the rich and powerful. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to conversion, to exercise hospitality to our brothers and sisters as well as to holding ourselves responsible by ensuring their needs are met. Amen

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday March 17, 2011

Scripture Matthew 7: 7-12

Today’s readings are about prayer, especially prayer of petition.

Today’s gospel sounds marvellous. “Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you”. It seems all we have to do is pray for something and we will get what we ask for. However, we know from experience that this is simply not true. We pray to win the lottery but we don’t even get one of the minor prizes. We pray for the recovery of a person with cancer but the person dies. What is happening? Is Jesus telling lies? Are there some hidden conditions of which we are not aware?

We believe the answer lies in the second half of the Gospel today. First, Jesus asks whether a father would offer a stone to his son asking for bread or whether a snake would be offered instead of a fish. “If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

In other words if we human beings, in spite of our shortcomings, care for the well-being of our children, then certainly God, who is all good, will be much more caring. The problem is not that God does not answer our prayers; the difficulty is that we tend to ask for the wrong things. We do not give a child a sharp knife to play with even though, when we refuse to do so, he throws a temper tantrum and gets angry with us. A good parent, of course, will try to give the child something else which satisfies its real need at the moment.

Jesus is saying that God will give “good things” to those who ask. In fact, as Jesus says: “do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt 6:8), God already knows all our needs so it is not necessary to tell him. Why do we have to pray? The purpose of prayer is for us to become more deeply aware of what our real needs are.

The things we ask for in prayer can be very revealing of our relationship with God and with others, it can be very revealing of our values and our wants. The deepest prayer of petition will be to ask God to give us those things which are the best for our long-term well-being, those things which will bring us closer to him and help us to interact in truth and love with those around us. It is prayer to be the kind of people we ought to be. It is difficult to see that prayer not being answered.

It may be useful for us to look at the prayer of petition of Jesus in the garden and how it was answered. St. Paul in the second letter to the Corinthians also shares an experience of petitionary prayer which he made (2 Cor 12:7-10) and the surprising answer that he got: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

The last verse of the Gospel called the Golden Rule: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.” If we expect God to be kind and generous to us, certainly we are expected to be equally kind and generous to those who come asking our help.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I Sunday of the Lent – March 13, 2011

The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.” (Mt 4:10)

A woman phoned God and bitterly said she didn't understand Him and she is very upset with Him.

God replied, "Good, madam. That makes us even." Then He hung up.


First Sunday of Lent: These Forty Days

As you are aware, Lent began last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. The Forty Days of Lent flow from Jesus fasting for 40 days and nights to do battle with the tempter, the devil. That is not the only time the number 40 appears in the Bible. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights while Noah and company were in the ark. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights with God on Mt Sinai when the Covenant of the Ten Commandments was established. When scouts were sent to survey the Promised Land, they stayed there for 40 days and 40 nights. They returned with wonderful stories about the wealth of the land, but also with frightful stories about its inhabitants. The people did not trust in God to protect them. They did not believe that He was giving them this land. They cried out, “We can’t go there.” For their lack of faith, they were punished by being forced to roam the desert--for 40 years. In the First Book of Kings, Elijah was pursued by the army of the wicked Queen Jezebel after he killed the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. He fell asleep in the desert but was woken twice by an angel who gave him food and water to drink. Strengthened by that drink he walked 40 days and 40 nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. There in a still small voice, God gave him the instruction for the re-establishment of the faith of Yahweh. In the New Testament, not only did Jesus fast for 40 days and nights, His Ascension into heaven occurred 40 days after the Resurrection.

Numbers in the Bible are not meant to be taken literally. They serve a symbolic function. In the Bible 40 represents a time of need, struggle and testing in preparation for a new relationship with God, be it after the flood with Noah, as the children of Israel with Moses, in the promised land with Joshua, with the belief in Yahweh restored with Elijah, with the New Kingdom of God to be preached by Jesus, and the with the Life of the Spirit given after Jesus’ Ascension.

The 40 days of Lent are a time of preparation for us …

Jesus’ preparation, His 40 day, culminated in the temptations of the devil. He was strong enough to withstand them.

The three temptations the Lord withstood are really temptation that confront us all: the temptation to be self centered, the temptation to ignore God, and the temptation to sacrifice our Christianity to power and authority.

Take these stones and turn them into bread,” is echoed by us when we make the goal of our lives keeping our stomachs full, or, basically, being selfish. “Man does not live on bread alone,” Jesus counters. Our lives are certainly empty when we are self centered. We need God. We need his Word to give us purpose. What will remain of us 500 years from now? Here on earth we will all be gone and probably forgotten. But there is part of us that can remain here on earth. There is part of us that will last. That part of us is the Presence of the Lord that you and I have strived to make real in the world. There is nothing self-centered in living for the Lord.

Leap from the top of the Temple and force God to save you,” the devil tempts Jesus. It is the temptation that somehow we have a power over God, just as the devil tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God and become equal to Him. I don’t think any of us believes that we can be more powerful than God, or that we can force God into action on our behalf. But I do think that we are tempted to follow the relativism of the world and see ourselves as the center of the universe. When we say that our choices in life depend on our own desires, not on what is objectively right or wrong, or, more, when we say that we determine morality ourselves, we act as though we are little gods. And if God doesn’t follow our expectations we behave like a woman in the joke I heard few days ago:

A woman phoned God and bitterly said she didn't understand Him and she is very upset with Him. God replied, "Good, madam. That makes us even." Then He hung up.

Pope Benedict has written about the scourge of relativism, as modern man sacrifices principals to his own selfish desires. Who are we to tell God what is right and wrong? Who are we to tell God that He needs to accept our choices even if they are against objective morality? We do not have the right to tempt our God.

The final temptation brought before Jesus was the temptation to sacrifice our faith for the sake of power. This might not seem to apply to us, until we consider the question of the Lord to his disciples, “What profit is it for a man to gain the whole world but sacrifice his very self?” People in the business world are tempted to make compromises in their Christianity to advance their careers. Even in the homes, people will push Christian charity aside in order to assert their position in the marriage and family. I used to say the Pilgrims Prayer, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.” I have refined it into, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me an arrogant sinner.”

We spend the 40 days of Lent doing battle against these all the temptations we have to push God outside of our lives.

Well, we all have temptations. This Sunday I want to address a difficult question: Why does God allow the devil to tempt us? It may surprise you that God uses the devil. He is not an independent power, equal to God. At any moment God could banish Satan, but he does not do so. Temptations have a purpose in God's plan.

We see today that even Jesus experienced temptation. He was "led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil." The Spirit led him - in order for the devil to tempt him. Temptations have a purpose.

The first reason that God allows the devil to tempt us is to expose our real selves.

When I recognize my true self, I grow in humility - and that leads to another purpose of temptation: To acknowledge dependence on God. In response to the devil's temptations, Jesus says that we do not live on bread alone, "but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." Temptation - when we see its true danger - can bring a person to his knees. We can see that even in Jesus. He is God in human flesh. As a man, Jesus had to submit his will totally to the will of the Father.

"If you can walk on water, you art no better than a straw. If thou can fly in the air, you art no better than a fly. But if you can resist temptation, you can conquer the universe." Genuine power, real strength, comes from resisting temptation by God's grace.

We are weak, but each time we stand with Jesus, each time we resist temptation, we gain power. That power ultimately does not belong to us, but to God. The power is real, but when we think it is our own, we set ourselves up for a big fall. With that in mind let's review the three purposes of temptation:

Humility: to expose ones real self.

Trust: to entrust one's self to God.

Say "No" to yourself. A lot of people are afraid of the word "discipline" but the root of the word discipline is the word "disciple." When you're self-disciplined, you simply decided in the matter of the will to become your own "disciple."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thursday March 10, 2011

Scripture: Lk: 9: 22-25

“Choose life so that you and your descendants may live...” More than three thousand years after Moses issued this call to the Israelites, God is still extending the same offer to us. He is urging us to live according to his ways so that we can know him and his peace more deeply. So what will you choose today: the way of life or the way of death?

We know which way God wants us to choose, but we also know it’s not always easy to make that choice. Our faith may be weak. We may doubt that we can trust Jesus. Or we may have turned aside from his path and are not sure how to get back on the right track. Usually, when we find ourselves struggling to embrace God’s ways, the real struggle is that we have lost sight of who Jesus is. And that makes it harder to choose the life that he is calling us to live.

Today’s Gospel gives us a summary of the life of following Jesus. It will not always be easy and it requires living in a different way than others in the world.

Christian history is filled with people who sacrificed their lives for their faith, but for most of us, “losing our life” does not mean physical dying as we try to live out this life as followers of Jesus. The way most of us “lose our life” is much less dramatic, much less memorable every day. How are we being asked to give ourselves away in here and now?

On the second day of Lent, many of us might be thinking of what we might “give up” for Lent. It’s an old custom and a good one, and if we began it as children, we might remember giving up chocolate, television or desserts. But as we grow older, we might be looking for something with more meaning to it. This Lent might be a time to “give up” something that will make us different persons 40 days from now.

Doing any things faithfully for six weeks will change our lives and the lives of others around us. It is part of what God is inviting us to this Lent: a chance to make myself a better person and a chance to connect each day with God.

Jesus asks today, “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose or forfeit themselves?” For the next six weeks of this Lenten season, we can truly find ourselves by giving up our own needs and desires and focusing on the lives of others. Amen

Monday, March 07, 2011

9th Sunday in Ordinary Time – March 6th -2011

Gospel - Mt 7:21-27

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’

will enter the kingdom of heaven,

but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day,

‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?

Did we not drive out demons in your name?

Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’

Then I will declare to them solemnly,

‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.

But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.

And everyone who listens to these words of mine

but does not act on them

will be like a fool who built his house on sand.

The rain fell, the floods came,

and the winds blew and buffeted the house.

And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”


Apparently today’s readings are contradictory. In the first reading Moses is telling Israelites:

“I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse:

a blessing for obeying the commandments of the LORD, your God …

a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,”

In the second reading St. Paul seems to contradict Moses:

“we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law ..”

And in the Gospel Jesus is apparently contradicting St. Paul:

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.”

Is Moses wrong? Does St. Paul denies the law of the Old Testament as wrong? Or maybe Jesus is wrong?

I thing that all are right. If we read St. James:

“You believe in the one God -- that is creditable enough, but even the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Fool! Would you not like to know that faith without deeds is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar?” (James 2:19-20)

Today we come to the very end of the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. We are not surprised that the conclusion of this long sermon comes with an allusion to the Last Day.

The words ‘ON THAT DAY’ are a clear reference to the Day of Judgement and the separation of the righteous and sinners. Here it is not in the form of sheep and goats but as the man who built his house on sand as opposed to the one who built his house on rock.

Here we see clearly that Jesus, good psychologist that he is, doesn’t take the hell-fire approach; but what he does He heavily stress that a choice must be made in life.

Listening to and then acting on his words leads to eternal life; however, those who merely listen but do not act will find themselves outside the Kingdom.

And choice is what the Christian life is all about: choosing the Kingdom, choosing to accept God’s will, choosing the good and rejecting the evil.

A lot of us, however, like to sit on the fence. We like to have one foot in both camps; we come to Mass and we say our prayers but we like to dabble a bit on the side. We are overly fond of Augustine’s words in prayer to the Lord, “God, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

We want to have our cake and eat it, we want to be good and holy, and ultimately to go to heaven, but we don’t want to be rid of our sins and pleasures just yet. We rather like them and treat them as old friends that we don’t want to push out of the door.

And like that we are paying the double game. There is a story which perhaps will help us to portrait the situation.

“A rich man decided he should do something for the poor so he went to the poorest man in the village and gave him the contract to build a house. It was to be a grand house and no expense was to be spared.

The rich man then went off on a long journey.

The poor man thought to himself that this was his big chance to make a killing. He built the house but with the cheapest of everything, all the while submitting bills to the agent for the best of materials.

When the rich man returned he was able to present him with the key to the new house. The rich man promptly returned the key to the builder and said that he would be happy if he would accept the house as his gift.”

Don’t we realise that indeed we are the builders, the constructors of our own future, of our eternity?

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.

But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.

And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.

And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

Friday, March 04, 2011

Thursday March 3, 2011

Scripture: Mk 10: 46-52: “What do you want me to do for you?”

In a poor village, there was no electricity. And in the night without moon and stars, there was a blind man with a lighted lamp in his hand to walk home. A passer stopped the blind man and asked him: “what do you do with the lighted lamp because you are blind? The blind man answered: “It is not for me, but for others. If I carry this lighted lamp with me, others can see it. Then they will not hit me.”

The blind man continued his journey carrying the lighted lamp with him. On the way, there was a storm. He waited under a tree and resumed his journey after the storm. Suddenly a stranger coming in the opposite way hit him and both of them fell down on the ground. The blind man shouted angrily, “Couldn’t you see the lighted lamp in my hand, man? Are you blind?” The stranger replied, “I am not blind but your lamp was not burning.” “I am sorry, dear”, said the blind man. “I am blind and did not know that the flame was put off by the storm.”

Dear brothers and sisters,

The blind man in the Gospel today, was marginalized out of the society because of his blindness, a truly serious physical infirmity. Consider for a moment that there were no social security or government programs for him to fall back upon. Like everybody, he was expected to earn a living. However, it was impossible for him. Therefore, society expected him to do what he did - find a corner at a busy intersection, sit on the ground and beg. He found himself at the bottom of society that he had to sit on the ground, a totally denigration of his human dignity.

Remember the Gospel yesterday Jesus asked James and John what they wanted from him. What did you find the answer? They wanted positions of power and honor at the side of Jesus when He enters into His kingdom. Today, the same question that Jesus turns to Bartimaeus and asks him what he wants and he gets a simple response: “My teacher let me see again” Here, Bartimaeus stands for the whole humankind, not physical blindness but spiritual blindness: cut off from the light; prisoners to sin; to selfishness, to ambition, lost in a dark land with no signposts and with no way out. Persons who are spiritually blind can’t understand suffering; they only see God insofar as He is useful to them.

For Bartimaeus, his faith totally changes his life and it opens him up to new possibilities. St. Mark wants us to understand that the same kind of faith can change our lives as well. Life can gain a new meaning, a new direction. Life lived for Jesus and not merely for ourselves and what we can get out of this life will open us to the fullest expression of our humanity and we will discover who we truly are. We will then find ourselves in the company of Bartimaeus, having left our personal prisons behind, embarking on a new life of discipleship - as we too follow Jesus, up the road.

Lord Jesus, may we never fail to recognize our need for your grace. Help us to take advantage of the opportunities you give us to seek your presence daily and to listen attentively to your word. Amen