March 2, 2017

March 2

March 2, 2017:  Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Find a dozen connections with today?
Legend below

Pope Francis
Today's homily:  Today's readings place the exhortation to be converted in the context of man, God, and the journey:
Man:  God has made us free to choose good over evil but doesn't leave it to us alone; he points out the path of goodness with the Commandments.
God:  It was hard for the disciples to understand the path of the Cross. God took on all human reality except sin; there's no God without Christ. A ‘disincarnate’ god is not real.  God made Christ, for us, to save us.  When we distance ourselves from this reality, from the Cross, from the Lord's wounds, we distance ourselves from God's love and salvation.  People's wounds are Christ's wounds, God's wounds, because God is made Christ.  We must convert not to an abstract God but to the concrete God who is made Christ.
The journey:  “To come after me, deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”  The reality of the journey is that of following Christ, doing the Father's will, taking up the daily crosses and denying oneself to do what Jesus wants.  On this street we lose our life, to regain it later; it's a continual loss of life, loss of doing what I want, loss of comforts, being always on the path of Jesus who adored God and served others.  The only sure path is following Christ crucified.
The realities of man, God, and the journey are the Christian's compass; it won't let us take the wrong path.
Ash Wednesday homily:  Return to Me with all your heart.”  No one should feel excluded; all faithful people are summoned to come and worship God who is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in love.  We too want to return to the Father's merciful heart.  Lent is a path to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity.  Lent is the road from slavery to freedom, suffering to joy, death to life.  The ashes remind us that we're taken from the earth, made of dust.  But we're dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed life upon each of us and still wants to keep giving us that breath that saves us from every other breath:  the asphyxia brought on by selfishness, petty ambition, and indifference:  asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows horizons, dampens faith, cools charity, and strangles hope.  To experience Lent is to yearn for this life breath that sets us free from the asphyxia we often don't notice.  We've grown accustomed to breathing air from which hope has dissipated, air of glumness and resignation, air of panic and hostility.
Lent is the time to say no:  no to spiritual asphyxia born of pollution caused by indifference, and by attempts to trivialize life, especially lives of those burdened by superficiality.  No to the pollution of empty words, of hasty criticism, of simplistic analysis that doesn't to grasp the complexity of the problems of those who suffer.  No to the asphyxia of prayer that soothes our conscience, almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, fasting that makes us feel good.  No to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God but avoid Christ's wounds found in the wounds around us.  No to spirituality that reduce faith to a culture of exclusion.
Lent is a time to remember:  to ask what we'd be without God's mercy, where we'd be without the help of people who have stretched out their hands, given us hope, and enabled us to begin again.
Lent is the time to start breathing again:  to open up to the breath of the One who can turn our dust into humanity.  It's not the time to rend our garments before the evil around us, but to make room for the good we can do.  It's a time to set aside all that isolates, encloses, and paralyzes us.  Lent is a time of compassion, of saying, “Restore the joy of your salvation; sustain in us a willing spirit,” so our lives may declare your praise and our dust become a “dust of love.”
To parish priests:  Progress in memory, hope, and discernment:
Growth in faith implies a path of formation and of maturation in faith through encounters with the Lord throughout life that act as a treasure of memory and are our living faith, in a story of personal salvation.  As basketball players pivot on a stable foot while remaining flexible to protect the ball from opponents, we pivot on the cross of Christ.”
Memory is remembering the Lord's promise.  Faith nourished on memory confers the solidity of the Incarnation.  Faith feeds on and is nourished by memory:  memory of the Lord's Covenant with us.  He's not a God of the last moment, without a family history, a God who throws out precedents to respond to a new paradigm.  Faith can even progress “backwards” in a return to roots.  The more lucid our memory, the more clear the future opens up, because we can distinguish the new path from the one already taken.
Hope is the guiding star that indicates the horizon; it opens faith to God's surprises.  Faith is sustained and progresses thanks to hope. Hope is anchored in the heavens, in the transcendent future.  Hope gives dynamism to the rearwards-looking glance of faith, which leads us to find new things in the past, in the treasures of memory, so we may encounter the same God.
Discernment makes faith concrete and lets us give witness.  Discernment of the opportune time (kairos) is rich in memory and in hope:  remembering with love, I gaze with clarity to what guides to the Promise.  Discernment involves stepping back better to see the panorama, then forward to discern how to concretize love for the good of the other.
  • Dt 30:15-20  Moses:  “I've set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  If you love God and walk in his ways, you'll live and grow, and the Lord will bless you, but if you turn away, you'll perish.  Choose life and live.”
  • Ps 1:1-4, 6  "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord."
  • Lk 9:22-25  The Son of Man must suffer and be rejected, be killed, and be raised.  “To come after me, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you lose your life for my sake, you'll save it.  What profit is there to gain the world but forfeit yourself?”
    • Creighton:  “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me” isn't easy to understand and do.  Am I willing to lose my life?  Some say they'll lose their life for Jesus, but their actions don't reflect it.  Jesus is our example of complete sacrifice. For me, losing my life and taking up my cross begins with a change of attitude:  to cry that I need God in everything I do. But nothing changes or becomes important until it becomes specific. I believe God wants our beliefs to turn into Christ-like behavior.  God is moving in our lives, waiting for us to acknowledge his presence and power.
    • One Bread, One Body:  "What's your cross today?"  To be Jesus' disciples, we must lose our lives for his sake; we live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and was raised up for us.  The key to godly self-denial and discipleship is recognition and acceptance of our daily cross.  Our cross is suffering in the pattern of Jesus' death, freely chosen, carried with forgiveness for those who have sinned against us, being crucified with Christ by dying to self, a privilege, and a great joy.  Holy Spirit, help us recognize, and bear, our daily cross.
      The wicked are like chaff
    • Passionist:  Today's Gospel says what choice we must make to follow Jesus.  Knowing how a story ends is often the key to understanding parts of the story that left us wondering. What did the people around Jesus think when he predicted his death and resurrection, and when he told them they'd have to pick up a cross daily to follow him?  'Cross' (Gk stauros) was an instrument of execution; when Jesus said his followers need to carry it was to identify them with that Roman form of execution.  We choose to follow Jesus to the self-giving of the Cross. We look for ways to put our personal advantage aside and identify with Jesus.  May our daily cross bring us closer to joy.
    •  "Take up your cross daily and follow Christ":  Jesus' obedience reversed the curse of Adam's disobedience; his death won pardon, freedom, healing, and new life.  We lose what we gain and gain what we lose. When we try run our life our own way, we lose it to futility.  Only God can free us from our ignorance and sinful ways. When we surrender to God, he gives us new life. God wants us to be fit to serve him. When the body is weak, we try to nurse it to health; how much more should we work towards spiritual health.  Will you part with anything that might keep you from following Christ?  Each decision we make shapes us. Some may gain all they aim for, then discover they missed the most important things.  Disciples will give up all they have in exchange for true happiness and life with God.  The cross leads to freedom and victory. What cross is Christ commanding me to take up today?  Where does my will cross his?  The cross involves the sacrifice of laying down my life daily for his sake, possible only because God's love has been poured into us....
    Dress legend
    • 'Walker' tie pin:  Walk in the Lord's ways (1st reading); don't walk in the way of sinners (psalm)
    • 'Scroll' pin:  Blessed those who delight in the law of the Lord (psalm); if you keep God's commandments...  (1st reading)
    • 'Heart' pin (oops:  fell off, but later recovered):  ...but if you turn away your hearts...  (1st reading)
    • OneLife LA button:  I set before you life and death; choose life. (1st reading)
    • 'Tree' pin:  One who delights in the Lord is like a tree... (psalm)
    • Blue shirt:  ...planted near running water... (psalm)
    • 'Fruits' tie:  ...that yields its fruit in due season (psalm)
    • 'Wheat' pin:  The wicked are like chaff... (psalm)
    • 'Cross' pin:  "Deny yourself, take up your cross..." (gospel)
    • 'WWJD' pin:  "...and follow me" (gospel)
    • 'Olympics' tie pin:  What's the profit of gaining the world but losing yourself? (gospel)
    • Purple suspenders:  Lenten season

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