March 3, 2016

March 3

March 3, 2016:  Thursday, 3rd week, Lent

How many connections with today do you see?
Legend below
For the psalm
Pope Francis
Homily:  Jeremiah reminds us of God’s pact with his people, a “faithfulness pact.”  Both readings tell us the pact failed; we can call it a history of failed faithfulness.  God remains faithful, because he can't deny himself, but the people amass infidelities:  "they obeyed not nor paid heed.”  God did many things to attract their hearts:  "I've sent you prophets, but they've stiffened their necks....  Faithfulness has disappeared, cut off from their lips.”
Their unfaithfulness, like ours, hardens and closes the heart and keeps out the voice of the Lord who always asks us to open ourselves to his mercy and love..  The Lord with fatherly tenderness tells us:  return to me with all your heart, for I'm merciful and compassionate.  But when your heart is hard, you can't understand.  We see the same story in the gospel:  The doctors of the law had studied Scripture but were closed-minded.  The crowd, astonished and open-hearted, trusted and was following Jesus, but the closed-minded theologians looked for an explanation so as not to understand Jesus’ message.
This is the story, the history of failed faithfulness, of closed hearts that wouldn't let God’s mercy enter.  They forgot the word ‘forgiveness’ because they felt they were judges of others, not sinners.  Jesus explains this failed faithfulness:  “Whoever isn't with me is against me.”  Either you're faithful, with your heart open, or you're against him; no middle ground for negotiations.  The way out is to confess, because then your heart opens, God’s mercy enters, and you begin to be faithful.  Ask for the grace of faithfulness, knowing the first step is to feel we're sinners.  Ask for the grace of openness to God’s mercy and the grace to ask forgiveness when we find we're unfaithful. 

To Pontifical Academy for Life:  Virtue isn't just a habit; it's the renewable ability to choose good.  It's not an emotion, or skill acquired through a course, but the highest expression of human freedom.  It's the best we can offer.

Papal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 2nd Lenten sermon, concluded from yesterday
Lectio Divina:  Do the Word
The final phase of the path James proposed:  “Be doers of the word... for a doer shall be blessed.”  On the other hand, “A hearer of the word who isn't a doer is like one who observes his face in a mirror, goes away, and forgets what he was like.”  “Doing the word” was on Jesus’ heart: “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”  Without “doing the word,” everything is illusion and building on sand.  People cannot even say that they have understood the word because, as St. Gregory the Great says, "God's word is truly understood only when people practice it" (Gregory the Great).
This step consists of obeying the word.  God's word, under the Spirit's action , becomes the expression of God's will for me now.  If we listen attentively, we'll realize with surprise that every day—in the liturgy, recitation of a psalm, or other times—we discover a word for us to do.  Obedience to God's word we can always give.  All can do it.  Ignatius of Antioch gave this advice to one of his brother bishops:  “Let nothing be done without your consent, nor do anything without God’s.” 
Obeying the word of God means following good inspirations.  Our spiritual progress depends on our sensitivity to good inspirations and our readiness to respond.  A word of God has suggested an idea to you:  it's placed on your heart a desire for a good confession, a reconciliation, or an act of charity; it invites you to interrupt work to address an act of love to God.  Don't delay and let the inspiration pass. “I fear Jesus passing by" (Augustine); I'm terrified his inspiration won't come back.
Our mind is like a mill; the first wheat put into it in the morning is what we grind all day.  Put the good wheat of God's word into your mill every  morning, or the devil will put weeds in it for our mind to grind all day.  The word we could put in our mill is the one chosen for the Year of Mercy:  “Be merciful as your heavenly Father!”

  • Jer 7:23-28  I commanded, "Listen; walk in my ways," but they walked in the hardness of their evil hearts.  This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord or take correction.  Faithfulness has disappeared...
  • Ps 95:1-2, 6-9  "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."  Sing to the Lord our God, the Rock of our salvation.  Worship; kneel before our Maker.  He shepherds us.
  • Lk 11:14-23  Some said, “Jesus drives out demons by Beelzebul's power”; others asked him for a sign.  He said, “If Satan is divided, how will his kingdom stand?... Whoever is not with me is against me.”
    • Creighton:  Jeremiah admonished his listeners about their hypocrisy; their rituals were meaningless to the Lord because their lives weren't in line with them.  God asks for justice and kindness, not sacrifice.  Caring for the anawim pleases the Lord more than burnt offerings.  God sent his prophets to guide people and obey him, but they didn't listen.  Jesus also encountered stiff-necked people who accused him of casting out demons by Beelzebul's power.  Jesus countered their arguments:  if they believed God’s power worked through other exorcists, they ought to say the same of him or they'd condemn their own.  Jesus’ exorcisms showed Satan’s power was broken and God’s reign had come.  The simile of the strong man explains God has defeated Satan....
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Hard, and hardening, hearts":  We can have hardening of our hearts for years. We can ignore God and become progressively worse than our ancestors, who were worse than theirs.  Nations can harden their hearts too.  Hearts can be so hard that we kill God's prophets, forget faithfulness, accuse Jesus of working for the devil, become the devil's pawns, and sin.  If you hear God's voice, don't harden your heart.
      St. Katharine Drexel
    • Passionist:  Do you know God is speaking to you?  He is!  But our lives can be so noise-filled that we don’t hear him.  Hearing God is for every one of us because we're God’s children, and he wants to converse with each of us.  Quiet yourself and sit with God.  Ask a question and listen.  He also speaks to us through nature, music, other people, Scripture, and other ways, but converse with your heavenly Father; he's in the quiet of your soul, waiting for you.
    •  "God's kingdom has come upon you":  True peace and security come to those who trust in God and obey his word.  The struggle between choosing good or evil, my will or God's, can't be won by our strength alone, but God offers us grace if we'll obey him.  Jesus' exorcisms brought freedom to many. Jesus himself battled Satan when tested in the wilderness, overcoming him through his obedience to his Father.  Some Jewish leaders reacted against Jesus' healings and exorcisms, slandered him, and assumed he was in league with Satan.  Jesus argued they were also incriminating their own exorcists, and that no divided kingdom survives for long.  Only a stronger person can defeat a strong one.  Jesus asserted his power to cast out demons as a demonstration of the reign of God.  His reference to the finger of God recalls Moses' confrontation with Pharaoh and his magicians who represented the kingdom of darkness; he claims to carry on the tradition of Moses whose miracles freed the Israelites by the finger of God.  When we disobey God, we open to door to the power of darkness in our lives.  May Jesus be master of my house....
      • St. Vignal (1 of 50 name variations), abbot
    Dress legend
    • 'Walker' tie pin:  Walk in the ways I command you (1st reading)
    • 'Phone' tie bar:  "When you call them, they won't answer you" (1st reading)
    • 'Hearts' suspenders:  They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts (1st reading); If you hear God, don't harden your heart (psalm)
    • 'Rock' tie pin:  Acclaim the Rock of our salvation (psalm)
    • 'Sheep' tie bar:  We're the flock he guides (psalm)
    • 'Signs' tie:  Some asked Jesus for a sign from heaven (gospel)
    • 'Car' tie pin:  "Do I drive out demons by Beelzebul or God's power?" (gospel)
    • 'Abacus' tie pin:  Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste.  How can Satan be divided against himself? (gospel)
    • Purple linen on "Lenten cross":  Lenten season

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