March 1, 2016

March 1

March 1, 2016:  Tuesday, 3rd week, Lent

  • 'Abacus' tie pin:  King settling accounts (gospel); you promised to multiply the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel... (1st reading)
  • 'Star' tie pin: the stars of heaven (1st reading)
  • 'Girl with heart' pin:  We follow you with our whole heart; receive us with contrite heart... (1st reading)
  • 'Lamb' tie bar: if we were offering thousands of fat lambs (1st reading)
  • 'School' pin:  Teach me your paths (psalm)
  • 'Money' tie:  king settling accounts (gospel)
  • '?' tie pin:  How many times do I have to forgive?  (gospel)
  • 'Clock' tie bar:  ..."Be patient with me, and I'll pay you back in full." (gospel)
  • Purple shirt:  Lenten season

  • Look it up/ Presley, Orrall: country song with verse about how hard it is for us to forgive ("forgiveness... It's what Jesus has in store for you, but I don't...") This Bailey/Lowe cover avoids the original's bad language.  lyrics+ (gospel) 
Pope Francis homily
Young Azariah’s prayer illustrates how we ought to trust in the Lord's goodness and mercy.  God's forgiveness is so great it's as though he forgets.  We do the opposite, chattering and remembering.  We don't forget because we don't have a merciful heart.  But young Azariah appeals to God's mercy, that he might forgive and save us and forget our sins.
In the Our Father we pray:  "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."  It's an equation:  the two sides go together.  If you can't forgive, how will God forgive you?  He wants to, but he won't if you have closed hearts, where mercy can't enter.  If you can't forget, ask the Lord to help you.  We can say "I forgive you" but mean "You’ll pay me later."  No; forgive as God forgives.
Mercy, compassion, and forgiveness are Godly; pardon given and received is an act of Divine mercy.  May Lent prepare us to receive God’s forgiveness, but then let's forgive others from the heart.  Then we get closer to this great, Godly thing, mercy.  Forgiving, we open our hearts so God’s mercy might come and forgive us, for we all need pardon.  Forgive, and be forgiven; have mercy, and feel God's mercy.  When He forgives, he forgets.
Papal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 2nd Lenten sermon, continued from yesterday
Lectio divina
“The force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her children, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life” (Dei Verbum).  Lectio divina methods were usually devised for monastic settings, making them less suited to today when Bible reading is recommended for all.  Fortunately, Scripture proposes a method of Bible reading accessible to everyone.  From James we extract a 3-step plan for lectio divina:  receive the word, meditate on it, and put it into practice:
Receive the Word
Receive the implanted word with meekness.”  This encompasses all the ways we come into contact with God's word:  liturgy, Bible studies, writings, and personal Bible reading.  "Learn by frequent reading of Scripture the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ....  Put yourself in touch with the sacred text, through the liturgy, devotional reading, or suitable instructions, and other aids" (Dei Verbum, paraphrased).
Avoid two dangers:  (1) Hypercriticism, making personal Bible reading impersonal.  According to Kierkegaard, one who waits to apply the word of God to his life until he's resolved the problems connected to the text, its variants, and divergent scholarly opinions will never reach a conclusion:  “God’s word is given so you act upon it....”  One who does no more than study sources, variants, and literary genres is like one who just looks at a mirror without looking at himself in the mirror; the mirror isn't fulfilling its proper function.  Scholarly biblical criticism is indispensable but not enough.
(2) Fundamentalism, taking everything literally.  These two dangers are only seemingly opposite; both share the defect of stopping at the letter and ignoring the Spirit.
In the sower parable, Jesus helps us discover our condition regarding receiving the word.  He explains what the 4 types of soil symbolize:  the path (those in whom God's words aren't planted), rocky soil (superficial ones who hear the word with joy but don't let it take root), thorny soil (those overwhelmed by preoccupations and pleasures), and good soil (those who hear, then bear fruit through perseverance).  We could be tempted to skip over the first three categories and think we're in the fourth despite our limitations, but the good soil represents those who recognize themselves in each of the other categories!  Humbly recognizing how they've been distracted, inconsistent, or overwhelmed by activism and preoccupations, they're becoming good soil.
Concerning the duty of receiving God's words and not letting any fall to the ground:  "You who take part in divine mysteries know, when you receive the Lord's body, how to protect it lest a part fall from it and be lost.  You correctly believe you're answerable if anything falls by neglect.  But if you're so careful to preserve his body, how do you think there's less guilt to neglect God’s word?" (Origen, paraphrased). (to be continued)
Fiery furnace
  • Dn 3:25, 34-43  Azariah's prayer in the fire: “Don't take away your mercy.  We're brought low because of our sins.  Receive us with contrite heart and humble spirit; so let our sacrifice be as we follow you unreservedly.  We follow you with our whole heart, we fear you, and we pray to you.  Deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.  Deliver us....”
  • Ps 25:4-5ab, 6-7bc, 8-9  "Remember your mercies, O Lord."  Teach me your ways; guide me in your truth.  You guide the humble to justice...
  • Mt 18:21-35  Peter / Jesus:  “If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  Seven times?” / “77 times.  The Kingdom may be likened to a king settling accounts with his servants.  A debtor owing a huge amount begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I'll pay you back,' and the master forgave the loan.  When the debtor left, he seized a fellow servant owing a much smaller amount:  ‘Pay up.’ / ‘Be patient; I'll repay you.’  But he refused and had him put in prison.  His fellow servants, disturbed, reported the affair to the master, who told him, ‘I forgave you your debt because you begged me.  Shouldn't you have taken pity on your fellow servant?’  Then his master had him tortured.  Forgive your brother from your heart!”
    • Creighton:  Today's readings call us to gaze on mercy and become more merciful.  Standing in the fire because he won't worship the king, Azariah prays that, though he can't make a traditional offering, God accept contrite hearts and humble spirits:  "Lord, we follow you unreservedly, trust you, and fear you.  Accept this; it's the only sacrifice we can offer.  Deal with us in your kindness and mercy."  The psalm response, "Remember your mercies, O Lord," sounds like Azariah's prayer; in both 1st reading and psalm, those in difficult situations remind God that he's merciful.  Jesus shows two sides of mercy:  showing mercy to the debtor, who needs and begs for it, and insisting that we show mercy to others.  When I want and need mercy, I want it to be boundless, but when I'm called to show mercy to others, I ask how many times I need to forgive, or I feel the person doesn't deserve it.  Why do we need to remind God to be merciful anyway??...
    • One Bread, One Body:  "The path to peace":  God first taught his people by giving them his Ten Commandments.  They lost their way, so he tried again.  He sent prophets to teach them and promised to write his law on their hearts.  God's people struggled to grasp his ways.  Then God sent Jesus to teach us his ways.  He personally made known God's paths by shouldering his cross, walking to Calvary, and saying, "Father, forgive them..."  The Lord sends you people close enough to hurt you more than seven times.  Will you forgive them repeatedly from your heart?
    • Agioipaideswith Azariah, Hananiah, and Mishael
    • Passionist:  Pope Francis just published The Name of God is Mercy, drawn from an interview in which he often refers to today's gospel, the parable of the unforgiving servant.  Peter asks how often he must forgive his brother or sister; Jews would understand Jesus' answer as infinity, as God's own forgiveness. The parable drives it home. The first debt is apparently the total taxes Herod collected in a year (Josephus). The debtor begs for more time, perhaps Jesus' humor since he can't repay the "national debt." The king forgives his debt, but when his fellow servant, who owes a day's wages, asks for time, he chokes and imprisons him.  We can always ask God for forgiveness, and as Jesus' followers, we are to show mercy, forgiveness, and compassion....
    •  "How often shall I forgive?"  When the Israelites rebelled against God, God left them to their own devices till they repented and cried out for mercy.  When Daniel, Azariah, Hananiah, and Mishael were thrown into the furnace, they cried out for mercy on themselves and the people.  God's "mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning."  We can't repay the debt we owed God because of our sins, but his mercy can free us.  Nothing our neighbor can do to us can compare with our debt to God!  God offers us the Spirit's help so we can love and pardon as as does....

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