February 10, 2016

Ash Wed.

February 10, 2016:  Ash Wednesday

  • 'Hearts' suspenders:  "Rend your hearts"; "return to me with your whole heart" (1st reading); "create for me a clean heart" (psalm)
  • 'Phone' tie bar:  'Call' an assembly (1st reading)
  • 'Angel with trumpet' pin:  "Blow the trumpet" (1st reading); "when you give alms, don't blow a trumpet" (gospel)
  • 'Jubilee year' button:  Give me back the joy of your salvation (psalm); Jubilee of Mercy
  • 'Clock' tie bar:  "in an acceptable time I heard you.... Now is the acceptable time..." (2nd reading)
  • 'Hands' tie:  "when you give alms, don't let your left hand know what your right is doing" (gospel)
  • Purple shirt:  Lenten season

Pope Francis
Lenten message: Works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee
Mary, image of a Church that evangelizes because she's evangelized:  By calling for listening to God's word and encouraging “24 Hours for the Lord,” I stress the primacy of listening to God.  Each Christian is called to experience God's mercy first hand.  I'm sending out Missionaries of Mercy as a sign of God’s closeness and forgiveness.  After receiving the news from Archangel Gabriel, Mary sang of the mercy whereby God chose her; she thus became the icon of the Church that evangelizes, for the Spirit evangelized her and made her fruitful.  In the prophets, mercy is related to the womb and to a generous, faithful, compassionate goodness within marriage and family.
God’s covenant with us: a history of mercy:  God's mercy is revealed in God-Israel covenant.  God shows himself rich in mercy, ready to treat us with tenderness and compassion, especially when infidelity ruptures the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth.  In this love story, God is the betrayed father and husband, Israel the unfaithful child and bride.  These images, as in Hosea, show how much God wants to bind himself to us.  In the Incarnation the Father pours forth his mercy even to making “mercy incarnate.”  Jesus, true son of Israel, embodies the Shema:  “The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  He's the groom who does everything to win his bride, to whom he's bound by unconditional love.  This is the heart of the kerygma, in which God's mercy is central:  God's saving love made manifest in Christ who died and rose.  We must keep hearing and announcing that.  Mercy is how God reaches out to sinners, offering them a chance to look, convert, believe, and restoring their relationship with him.  In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to every sinner.
Works of mercy:  God’s mercy transforms us, enabling us to become merciful in turn.  God's mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring us to love others and devote ourselves to spiritual and corporal works of mercy, works that remind us that faith finds expression in helping others:  feeding, visiting, comforting, and instructing them.  On such things we'll be judged.  Reflecting on the works of mercy can reawaken our conscience, too often dulled in the face of poverty, and help us enter into the Gospel, where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy.  In the light of God's love, the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as poor.  They consider themselves rich, but they're poor because they're slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth not to serve God and others but to stifle the sense that they're poor beggars.  They can even be blind to Lazarus begging at their door. Lazarus is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion.  He represents the possibility of conversion God offers us.  Such blindness is often accompanied by the illusion of our omnipotence, reflecting the devil's “you'll be like God,” root of all sin.  This illusion can take social and political forms....  and can be seen in sinful structures linked to the idolatry of money and no concern for the poor.
Listen to God’s word and practice works of mercy.  In the corporal works, we touch Christ in those who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works, we touch our own sinfulness.  Don't separate the two.  By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can realize they're poor and needy too.  By taking this path, the “proud,” “powerful,” and “wealthy” can also be loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them; only this love is the answer to the yearning for happiness and love we think we can satisfy with knowledge, power, and riches.  Yet the danger remains that by refusing to open their doors to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich, and powerful will condemn themselves.  Attentive listening to God  will best prepare us to celebrate the victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.
Audience:  We consider the ancient institution of the jubilee, a culminating moment in the life of the Israelites.  Every 50 years, on the day of atonement, when the Lord’s mercy is invoked upon the people, the trumpet announced the great event of liberation:  “Proclaim liberty to all; each of you shall return to your property and family.”  If someone had been compelled to sell his land or house, he could regain it; and if someone with debts had to place himself in the creditor's service, he could return debt-free to his family and regain the property.
It was a type of “general pardon,” with cancellation of debts, restitution of land, and the opportunity for freedom.  Similar regulations also combatted poverty and inequality, guaranteeing a dignified life and equitable distribution of land.  The land originally belonged to God and was entrusted to us, so no one may claim exclusive possession and create inequality.  Do you have too many things?  Why not leave them to those with nothing?
The poor returned to having the necessities of life; the rich restored what they had taken.  The goal was a society based on equality and solidarity, where freedom, land, and money became a good for all.  20% of the people have 80% of the wealth.  Let your heart become larger, more generous, more loving.  The Jubilee must touch your pocket.  The jubilee helped the people experience fraternity and mutual help; it was a “jubilee of mercy,” because it was lived seeking the good of the needy.
Other institutions and laws also governed the People of God, so it could experience God's mercy through people's. For example, “tithing” benefitted those in charge of worship, the landless, the poor, the fatherless, and widows, fostering equality.  There was also a law about sharing the harvest with those without fields, thus nourishing them.  We're all the Lord's guests, called to render the world habitable and human.  The first fruits were not only of fields, but of every other product, work, wages, and savings.  People help others today through the Office of Papal Charities....
Scripture exhorts a generous response to requests for loans.  How many are on the street today?  Pray that the Lord remove people's desire to have more, to exploit, that we may return to being generous, great.  How many end up committing suicide because they can't manage and have no hope or help?  The Lord promised to bless generous givers.  Be open to sharing; it's mercy!  If you want God's mercy, practice it among others, families, peoples, and continents.  Build a society without discrimination, based on solidarity that leads to sharing based on brotherhood and justice.
  • Jl 2:12-18  Return to me with fasting and weeping; rend your hearts.  The Lord is gracious, merciful, kind, and relenting.  Proclaim a fast; gather the people; say, “Lord, spare your people, and don't make your heritage a reproach.”  Then the Lord took pity.
  • Ps 51:3-6ab, 12-14, 17  "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned."  I acknowledge my offense.  Create a clean heart for me.  Don't cast me out from your presence.  Give me back the joy of your salvation.  Open my lips, and I'll proclaim your praise.
  • 2 Cor 5:20-6:2  We're ambassadors for Christ.  Be reconciled to God who made Jesus who didn't know sin to be sin, so we might become God's righteousness.  Now is a very acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.
  • Mt 6:1-6, 16-18  “Don't do righteous deeds so that people see them.  When you give alms, pray, or fast, don't call attention to it like hypocrites do.  Do it in secret; your Father will see and repay you.”
    • Creighton:  This is a time to let our heart be opened to examine what needs forgiveness and healing, and opened to grace, generosity, and compassion.  We want to reflect on the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection of Jesus to us.  We want to feel gratitude and let it transform how we feel about others' sin.  We want to experience Mercy and to relate with others more mercifully.  We want to be rededicated to the poor and to works of mercy.  Wearing ashes says I'm not afraid to say my life on this earth isn't everything; I know where I came from and where I'm headed.  This "public" aspect doesn't contradict today's gospel; Jesus warned not to do religious acts to gain others' approval or praise.  Lord, bless my desires.  Help me to know how you long to enter more deeply into relationship with me.  Help me to fast from whatever keeps me self-focused.  Strip me from unhealthy patterns that make freedom difficult.  Let me taste emptiness and experience hunger for you, for a new way of life, for service....

    • One Bread, One Body:  "A worldwide repentance program":  Many of us long for the renewal of the Church.  The Lord's answer:  "Repent and believe in the gospel.  Remember you're dust and will return to dust."  The Ash Wednesday message, that we're sinners who need to reform our lives, pray, fast, and give alms, is opposed to secular culture's message, but we long to be reconciled with God....
    • Passionist:  We want meaning in our lives and deaths. We want to make a difference.  Our lives and deaths are never in vain if we touch hearts.  May we allow God to mold us, so we may pray, give alms, and love without measure, look for the divine in every person, treat each with the dignity and respect due to Christ himself....
    • DailyScripture.net:  "When you pray, fast, and give alms":  God wants to set our hearts ablaze so we may radiate his joy.  "There are two kinds of people and two kinds of love:  One is holy, the other selfish. One is subject to God; the other endeavors to equal Him" (St. Augustine).  We are what we love.  God wants to free our hearts from all that would keep us captive.  "Rend your hearts, not your garments."  The Spirit is ready to transform our hearts and lead us in God's way.  The Jews considered prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as the cardinal works of religious life, the key signs of a holy person, the three bases of good life.  Do I pray, fast, and give to draw attention to yourself, or to give glory to God?  True piety is loving devotion to God, with reverence, worship, and obedience.  It's a gift of the Spirit that enables us to devote our lives to God and please him.  "When I'm united to You, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete" (Augustine).  The Lord wants to renew us and give us hearts of love and compassion.
    Lent's 40 days imitate:  days Jesus was in the wilderness, days Moses prayed and fasted to seek God's face, years the Israelites were in the wilderness in preparation to enter the promised land, and days Elijah fasted on the way to the mountain of God.   The Lord nourishes and strengthens us to seek his face and to prepare ourselves for spiritual combat and testing.  We, must follow the way of the cross to share his resurrection. Lord, pour out your Spirit so we may grow in faith, hope, and love and embrace your will more fully.

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