March 4, 2016

March 4

March 4, 2016:  Friday, 3rd week, Lent

See 17 connections with today?
Legend below
Listen to music for 1st reading

  • Hosea/ Norbet, composer-sung
Pope Francis penitential celebration homily
Today we ask the Lord, “I want to see.”  Our sins blind us to what's good, rob us of the beauty of our call, and lead us far from our journey's end.  The blindness of Bartimaeus led him to poverty and living on the outskirts, dependent on others.  Sin also impoverishes and isolates us; it's spiritual blindness, preventing us from seeing what's important, the love that gives us life.  It leads us to dwell on the superficial till we're indifferent to others and the good.  When we look to ourselves, we become blind, lifeless, self-centred, devoid of joy and freedom.
But Jesus invites us to see.  He makes us see that when we're away from him, something's missing.  He makes us feel in need of salvation; thus begins our healing.  Our desire leads to our crying for help, as did Bartimaeus.  Some don't want to be bothered by the crying out; they remain far from the Lord and keep others away.  We're all begging for God’s love; don't miss the Lord passing by:  "I'm afraid of the Lord passing us by" (Augustine).  Voice your desire:  “Let me see!”  Welcome God, experience his love, and return to him.  Cast off your cloak and rise; cast aside what prevents you from racing towards him, unafraid of leaving behind what makes you feel safe and what you're attached to.  Get up and find your spiritual worth, your dignity as loved children standing before God and seen by him, forgiven and recreated.
We Pastors must hear the cry of all who wish to encounter the Lord.  Re-examine behaviors that don't help others draw close to Jesus and to God’s tenderness.  Don't frustrate a sinner's desire to be reconciled with the Father, who's waiting for his children to return.  Say, Rise; he's calling you.”  Inspire courage; support and lead others to Jesus.  Accompany them, so their encounter may be personal and intimate, and they open to the Savior.  God is at work in every person.  He stops and speaks to the blind man; he listens and heals him.  Awaken the desire for conversion, facilitate the encounter, stretch out your hand, and absolve, making God's mercy visible and effective.
Bartimaeus “immediately received his sight and followed him.”  When we draw near to Jesus, we see the light that enables us to look ahead with confidence; we find strength and courage to set out on the way. “Those who believe, see” (Lumen Fidei, 1) and go forth in hope, because they know the Lord is present, sustaining and guiding them.  Follow him, so we can lead all we encounter to experience his merciful love.
Papal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa
We conclude our reflections on Dei verbum, the word of God.  Last week I spoke about lectio divina, Scripture reading for personal growth; I distinguished three steps James inspired:  receive the word, meditate on it, and do it.  Today I reflect on the fourth step:  proclaim it.  Dei verbum speaks of the word's privileged place in preaching but doesn't focus on preaching since the Council dedicated Ad gentes to it.  Bl. Paul VI took it up in Evangelii nuntiandi, St, John Paul II in Redemptoris missio, and Pope Francis in Evangelii gaudium.  I can't add anything to that but can focus on some spiritual aspects, starting with Paul VI's statement that “the Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization.” 
The medium is the message
Before I share news, I ask, “How will I transmit it?  Press?  Radio?  TV?”  The medium is so important that modern communication science coined “The medium is the message.”  The first natural medium is breath, voice.  My breath brings the word formed in my mind to hearers' ears; other means only reinforce it.
God's word is also transmitted by breath, the Holy Spirit!  Can my breath animate your words or your breath give life to my words?  As my word can only be articulated with my breath, so too God's word can only be articulated by the breath of God, the Spirit.  This is the fundamental law of every proclamation and evangelization:  divine news is transmitted by the Spirit, without whom we'd perceive only the human language clothing the message.  God's words are “Spirit and life” and so can't be transmitted or received except in the Spirit.  Jesus began preaching “in the Spirit's power.”  He declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me....”  He told the apostles in the upper room, “‘As the Father has sent me, I send you!’  He breathed on them and told them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”  In commissioning them, he conferred the means—the Spirit—and through the sign of breathing on them.
In Mt and Mk, the last word Jesus said to his apostles before ascending was “Go!”:  “Go into the world and preach the gospel....”  In Lk, however, it's Stay!: “Stay... until you're clothed with power....”  There's no contradiction:  it means, “go into the world, but not before receiving the Spirit.”  The Pentecost account highlights this.  The Spirit comes; then the apostles begin to speak about Christ crucified and risen, and 3,000 feel their hearts pierced.  The Spirit becomes an irresistible urge to evangelize.  Paul affirms that without the Spirit, we can't proclaim “Jesus is Lord,” the beginning and summation of Christian proclamation.  Peter, defines the apostles as “those who preached the good news to you through the Spirit.”  “Good news,” indicates the content, “through the Spirit” the means of proclamation. (to be continued)

  • Hos 14:2-10  Return to the Lord, your God; you've collapsed through your guilt.  Say, “Forgive all iniquity.  We'll no longer say, ‘Our god’ to the work of our hands.”  God:  "I'll heal their defection, I'll love them freely; my wrath is turned away from them.  Israel shall strike root and put forth shoots in splendor.  They shall dwell in his shade, raise grain, blossom, and have fame.  I've humbled Ephraim but will prosper him.  Because of me you bear fruit!  Let the wise know and understand these things.  The just walk in the Lord's straight paths, but sinners stumble.
  • Ps 81:6c-11ab, 14, 17  "I am the Lord your God: hear my voice."  “I relieved him of the burden.  You called, and I rescued you.  I'll admonish you; won't you  hear me?”  “Don't worship any alien god.  I led you from Egypt.”  “If you hear me and walk in my ways, I'll feed you with the best of wheat and fill you with honey.”
  • Mk 12:28-34  Scribe/Jesus:  “Which is the first of the commandments?” / “God alone is Lord!  Love the Lord with your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  No commandment is greater.” / “Well said.  You're right to say, There is no other.  To love him with heart, understanding, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all sacrifices.” / “You're not far from the Kingdom.”  No one dared to ask him more questions.
    • Creighton:  We're poor, lowly, sinful creatures of a great and loving God.  In the 1st reading, God is inviting us to return to Him.  Hosea says God is a well-rooted tree that will provide shade and fragrance.  He will feed and comfort us.  The path of the Lord leads to His love.  If we persist in our sin, we'll stumble, but he'll be waiting when we arrive.  Jesus singled out the most important commandments:  “Love God...” and “Love your neighbor...”  Do I believe in the love that God asks us to receive from him and show for others?  Mark’s “no one dared to ask him any more questions” could be read, “No one needed to ask him any more questions.”  But we do ask.  God is not only loving, but patient with us.
      St. Casimir
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Guilty parties":  We can minimize guilt either by accepting God's grace to live a good life or by suppressing our consciences.  When guilt comes from a good conscience, we can benefit from it.  A good conscience will make us feel guilty when we sin and lead us to repentance and restored innocence.  A bad conscience will delay our feelings of guilt, and we'll sin and hurt ourselves and others more.  Fast guilt warns us to prevent more serious sin and damage.  May our consciences be good and our guilt true and fast.
    • Passionist:  "No greater commandment":  There were 613 commandments when the scribe asked which was greatest.  Jesus not only answered love of God and neighbor but also lived it out.  As Hosea stated today, God loves us freely.  May that love transform our lives and world.
    •  "You're not far from the kingdom of God":  Hosea's people lived in economic anxiety and fear; they were tempted to put their trust in their possessions and political alliances.  Hosea called them to return to God for pardon, healing, and restoration.  Love and obedience to God's law go together.  The Pharisees tested Jesus to see if he correctly understood the law; Jesus startled them with simplicity and mastery of the law and its purpose.  God loved us first and our love for him is a response to his grace and kindness to us.  The more we know of God's love and truth, the more we love what he loves and reject what's contrary to his will.  Faith and hope strengthen us in the love of God.  The Lord, through the Spirit, gives us freedom to love as he loves....
    Dress legend
    • 'Horse' tie pin:  We won't have horses to mount (1st reading)
    • 'Words' tie:  Take with you words, and return to the Lord (1st reading)
    • 'Fruit' pin:  Because of me you bear fruit (1st reading)
    • 'Hand' tie pin:  We won't say ‘Our god’ to the work of our hands (1st reading); his hands were freed from the basket (psalm)
    • 'Tree' pin:  He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar; his splendor shall be like the olive tree. I'm like a verdant cypress... (1st reading)
    • 'Owl' tie pin:  Let the wise understand these things (1st reading)
    • 'Phone' tie bar:  You 'called' in distress, and I rescued you (psalm)
    • 'Wheat' pin, "bees' knees" button [oops forgot to pack], 'rock' tie pin:  If you'd hear me and walk in my ways, I'd feed you with the best of wheat and fill you with honey from the rock. (psalm)
    • '?' pin, 'scroll' pin:  “Which is the first of all the commandments?” (gospel)
    • 'Girl with heart' pin:  Love the Lord with all your heart... (gospel)
    • Blue shirt:  I tested you at the waters of Meribah (psalm)
    • Purple suspenders:  Lenten season
    • 'Scales of justice' pin:  God's judgment shines forth (1st reading, gospel); Pharisee judges tax collector (gospel)

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