13.4.14

Jesus' Disciples Challenges Us


Reflection for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Matthew 21: 1-11 (Palm Procession)
Matthew 26:14- 27:66 (Gospel)

Every Palm Sunday we hear two Gospel proclamations.
One is proclaimed when the palms are blessed; we hear about Jesus entering Jerusalem and the welcome that the people give him.  Then at the Gospel, we hear about Jesus being betrayed, the last meal he shared with the Apostles, and his arrest, suffering and death.

These two Gospel readings give us details of Jesus' last week of life and what his disciples do during that time. Because we are Jesus' disciples today, we pay close attention to the disciples in these Gospel readings.  They make arrangements for Jesus' entry into Jerusalem ; they prepare for the commemoration of the Passover; they gather around the table as Jesus institutes the Eucharist, they tread with Jesus to Gethsemane, and they flee at Jesus' arrest.

These are strong images, aren't they --so strong that they leave us a little disturbed.
We find ourselves thinking about how we might have behaved, about how strong our faith in Jesus really is as his disciples today.

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week.  As we enter this very holy time, being disturbed is a good thing.  It helps us to think seriously about our faith.  In the days ahead, let us examine our relationship with Jesus as his disciple in the world today.

Dear Jesus, may we be your obedient disciples. With your grace help us to be loyal to you.  May we never be cowards about our Catholic faith. Amen.

31.3.14

When Bad Things Happen

Photo courtesy of Tumblr
Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Lent
John 9:1-41

Have you experienced a time that was very sad for you and your family? 
I did.  

Recently, something came up and it was unbearable looking at my family going through so much pain. 

In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus helps us understand something about a faithful Christian’s response to the bad things that happen.  Knowing that our inclination is to ask why a bad thing has happened, Jesus helps ask a different question: How?

Now you might think: “Really? ‘How’ what?”

Well, let’s listen to what happens in this Gospel.  There is a man who was born blind.  Now in Jesus’ day, people thought that bad things happening to a person was the result of that person’s sin or that person’s parents.  That’s what  Jesus’ disciples are thinking in the Gospel when they ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answers “Neither.”  He says that neither the man nor his parents sinned; “..it is so that the work of God might be made visible through him.”

Now it’s a fact of life: Bad things happen.
Disease, violence, natural disasters, wars, famine, heartbreaks, failures, loss of jobs, even death.

These are the things that cause us much pain and sadness.  When we face the bad things in life, the question “Why did this happen?” is not the response of those who believe in the love of God and the healing strength of Jesus.  Rather, our response is “How can I respond to this situation to make God’s love visible?”

When bad things happen, we don’t ask why; rather we respond with faith.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your grace. Allow us to see things with your eyes. We turn to You when bad things happen.  We are stronger in our faith because you have taught us to ask, “How can I make God’s love visible in this situation?” Amen.



14.3.14

One Ordinary Morning


I was busy praying, saying my personal needs and concerns, asking God to keep my family strong. It was so quiet. When I opened my eyes and looked around, I was surprised to see that majority of the other people praying were men. Most of them were on their knees with their eyes closed. Some were looking at the Blessed Sacrament or the Man hanging from the Cross. That was before the Mass started.

I was the assigned reader for that day. While I walked the aisle back to my seat after the reading, a line from what I have just read kept ringing in my ears. As it did, its message tugged at my heart.

"Why do you weep.... Am I not more to you than ten sons?” 1 Samuel 1:8

I was in tears the whole Mass.

Around me were people like me. We were all struggling and fighting our own battles.

Thank you, my Dear Jesus, for allowing me to feel my own pain, so I will be able to see You in others. Thank you for giving me my husband. He is a reflection of You. Thank you for my family and friends. They are the extension of Your love. Thank you for Your mercy in allowing me to look beyond, so I can share myself to others. Thank you for Your grace, so I may grow in faith. Your presence in my life is more than enough for me. You are truly present in the celebration of the Mass. Amen.

2.3.14

What is Ash Wednesday?


"They are both going to the same place - the dust.
They both came from it; they will both go back to it." - Ecclesiastes 3:20

Also known as 'dies cinerum.'
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a penitential season observed by many Catholics and Christians. While the exact date of Ash Wednesday varies from year to year, it is always in either the month of February or March, depending on where Easter falls in the liturgical year. On Ash Wednesday, worshipers attend services at which they receive ashes on their foreheads. The pastor marks the forehead of each worshiper, often saying "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."

Where do the ashes come from? 
The ashes consist of burned palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday service. The ashes are blessed by a priest or pastor.

Why do people receive ashes? 
Ashes are viewed throughout Christian history as a symbol of humility and sacrifice for those who wear them.
In earlier times, Christians who committed serious sins did public penance. As part of this, they were sprinkled with ashes and required to wear sackcloths. In later years, penitents were also turned away from their place of worship for the entire season of Lent until Holy (Maundy) Thursday, by which time they had atoned for their sins. Eventually all Christians came to receive ashes in acts of devotion as well.

Why do people fast on Ash Wednesday?
While Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, it is the start of one of the most important seasons in the Catholic/Christian liturgical year. Since fasting is an integral part of the Lenten season, it is strongly encouraged, and even required, of most Christian worshipers on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Catholics and members of some other denominations also abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent.

How long does Lent last?
Lent (also referred to as the Great Lent in Orthodox Christian traditions) is the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday (Pascha), and lasts six and a half weeks. The final week of Lent is called Holy Week; during this period, observant Catholics/Christians reflect specifically on the last days of Jesus Christ's life. During Lent, Catholics/Christians purify themselves by praying, fasting, almsgiving, repenting of their sins, and making changes and sacrifices in their lives.


Source:
US Conference of Catholic Bishops

28.2.14

Preparing for Lent

Lent begins on an Ash Wednesday (March 5 for this year). To help Catholics live our Lent with greater dedication to the Lord Jesus, Pope Francis, as did his predecessors, addressed a Lenten message to the Catholic world.

He chose as his theme the words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: “Though rich, Jesus became poor so that by his poverty you might become rich.” Paul is writing to the wealthier churches of the Greek-speaking world to encourage them to share their financial resources with the poor Church of Jerusalem. The pope asks what these words and invitation to gospel poverty mean for us today?

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of universal fast and abstinence. Fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Abstinence (from meat) is obligatory for all who have reached their 14th year.

If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the "paschal fast" to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection.

Fridays in Lent are obligatory days of complete abstinence (from meat) for all who have completed their 14th year.

More Lenten resources here:

Questions and Answers about Lent and Lenten Practices

Q. Why do we say that there are forty days of Lent? When you count all the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, there are 46.

A. It might be more accurate to say that there is the "forty day fast within Lent." Historically, Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days. The forty day fast, however, has been more stable. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the Time of Lent, but they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence.

Q. So does that mean that when we give something up for Lent, such as candy, we can have it on Sundays?

A. Apart from the prescribed days of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the days of abstinence every Friday of Lent, Catholics have traditionally chosen additional penitential practices for the whole Time of Lent. These practices are disciplinary in nature and often more effective if they are continuous, i.e., kept on Sundays as well. That being said, such practices are not regulated by the Church, but by individual conscience.

Q. I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I'm not sure what is classified as meat. Does meat include chicken and dairy products?

A. Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs --- all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.

Q. I've noticed that restaurants and grocery stores advertise specials on expensive types of fish and seafood on Fridays during Lent. Some of my Catholic friends take advantage of these deals, but somehow I don't feel right treating myself to the lobster special on Fridays during Lent.

A. While fish, lobster and other shellfish are not considered meat and can be consumed on days of abstinence, indulging in the lavish buffet at your favorite seafood place sort of misses the point. Abstaining from meat and other indulgences during Lent is a penitential practice. On the Fridays of Lent, we remember the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday and unite ourselves with that sacrifice through abstinence and prayer.

Q. I understand that Catholics ages 18 to 59 should fast on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday, but what exactly are the rules for these fasts?

A. Fasting on these days means we can have only one full, meatless meal. Some food can be taken at the other regular meal times if necessary, but combined they should be less than a full meal. Liquids are allowed at any time, but no solid food should be consumed between meals.

Q. Are there exemptions other than for age from the requirement to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?

A. Those that are excused from fast and abstinence outside the age limits include the physically or mentally ill including individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women. In all cases, common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting.




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