Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

IS 55:10-11

PS 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19

MT 6:7-15

The readings for the day can be found here.

About 6 months ago I had my first daughter. Gianna Marie is at the stage where she babbles and makes all sorts of noises. Obviously she cannot directly tell me what she wants or needs, but in a roundabout way, as her parent, I try to figure it out. I was thinking about that in regards to today’s gospel where we read about how Jesus tells us to not babble in prayer as the pagans do. That seems easy enough. But how often in our lives do we choose to overcomplicate things? Do we choose to try and make things better or worse than they really are, almost as if we are convincing ourselves of something that we know deep down isn’t even true? Or do we overthink and over-worry about HOW we are or THAT we pray or what God sees when we do? All of the above are struggles I have experienced within my own prayer life.

Jesus tries to simplify it for us. We should pray. We should talk to God. Our prayer should be rooted in speaking to God as our friend, in a very personal and intimate relationship. Our prayer should not be over thought out, or drawn out for attention, or containing every perfect word in existence. Our prayer should not be overly complicated. Our prayer should reflect the one that is demonstrated in today’s gospel. And so, if we were to ask Jesus about HOW to pray, he seems to be the guy who would instruct guide us to the way of the most simple prayer we can utter in terms of what we want to talk to God about: the Our Father.

While it’s a prayer we all know by heart and at too many times can find ourselves forgetting the true meaning by going through the motions of the words, when broken down, it can mean so much to us personally and in our relationship with our God. I found this the other day when cleaning my office; didn’t even know I had this! God’s sense of humor is awesome.

I cannot pray/OUR, if my faith has no room for others and their need.

I cannot pray/ FATHER; if I do not demonstrate this relationship with my God daily.

I cannot pray/ WHO ART IN HEAVEN, if all of my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.

I cannot pray/ HALLOWED BE THY NAME, if I am not striving with God’s help, to be holy.

I cannot pray/ THY KINGDOM COME, if I am unwilling to accept God’s love in my life.

I cannot pray/ THY WILL BE DONE, if I am unwilling or resentful of having it in my life.

I cannot pray/ ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN, unless I am ready to give my life, my service, and my struggles to God.

I cannot pray/ GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD, without seeking out God’s real presence in the Eucharist for my life and my body.

I cannot pray/ FORGIVE US OUR TRESSPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESSPASS AGAINST US, if I continue to hold grudges.

I cannot pray/ LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I will be tempted.

I cannot pray/ DELIVER US FROM EVIL, if I am not prepared to fight evil with my life and my prayer.

I cannot pray/ AMEN, unless I can honestly say, “cost what it may, this is my prayer”.

-      Anonymous

This reflection gave me some perspective on what it means to pray to God. God doesn’t ask me to be perfect, but does call me to think about my life. This easy and simple and sometimes overused prayer can be such a great reminder of God’s love for us as His children. And just as Gianna babbles to me with her simple noise to get my attention, I hear her and it truly is enough. And as a loving parent, God feels the same way. Calling out, crying out, simply asking and simply being with our God is enough of a prayer. I know that I am called to simply take the Our Father and to break it down slowly, methodically, and meaningfully, all the while turning over my will and knowing that it will be provided for in God’s time. God doesn’t need much more than just a simple word to know that I need Him and there He is. During this Lenten season, I pray for the challenge to grow closer to God through a deeper understanding that my prayer life doesn’t have to be perfect or look so good, but it does have to be a work in progress. And this reflection helps in that journey.

Katie Lucchesi Gray (’08) is the Youth Minister at Saint Catherine Laboure Parish in Sappington, MO.

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Monday, 18 February 2013

Monday of the First Week of Lent

LV 19:1-2, 11-18

PS 19:8, 9, 10, 15

MT 25:31-46

The readings for the day can be found here.

The best thing about the Gospel today is also the worst thing: it is incredibly clear, straight to the point, and unequivocal. There is no need to pour through the texts of literary geniuses and theological doctors to get at the real meaning of this passage. The best part about this? Our orders are clear. The pathway to heaven is simplified into a 1-2-3 step process. Jesus doesn’t mince words. The worst part? Well let me phrase it like this. When is the last time you visited a prisoner in jail? Yeah, its been a while for me too.

I’m not here to tell you to go serve at your local food kitchen, or give away some of your older clothes to good will, or to visit the old and sickly members of your family. We are all aware of our duties to those who have less than us, and we all know in our hearts how much of our time, talent, and treasure is spent in that service. Lent is certainly a good time to increase giving in any of these areas. However, Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Corinthians that “if I give away everything I own, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not love, I have nothing (Ch 13, v3).” I’ll come back to this.

I am incredibly guilty of complaining about my Lenten sacrifices. Already this season, I can remember multiple times where my friends and I bemoan the long stretch of sacrifice until Easter. It is easy to let a lack of coffee, a drive to check Facebook, or a craving for sweets to drive out thoughts of thankfulness or concern for others. In my opinion, the sacrifices I make are supposed to bring me closer to the people around me. It doesn’t matter if I am either bemoaning my sacrifice, or patting myself on the back for my steadfastness. That kind of thought puts myself first, and others second.  Unfortunately, the Gospel also reminds us that sacrifice is more than just giving from excess, or a good practice for personal advancement. True giving, in either a physical, spiritual, or mental form, is true love for another. Jesus then reminds us that love of others is love of him.

Let me try to tie together my jumbled thoughts: Lent is a time to put others first, and by loving others, and sacrificing in our lives, we draw closer to our God. So in this time in the Spiritual Desert, let our sacrifices lead us away from self-attention, either good or bad. Let our sacrifice lead to love, and let love lead us to life.

Prayers for all the SLU Community in this blessed time.

“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.”-Mother Teresa

 

Michael J. Lally Jr. is a sophomore studying psychology, a student ambassador and a member of Oriflamme.

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

First Sunday of Lent

DT 26:4-10

PS 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15

ROM 10:8-13

LK 4:1-13

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

“The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart”

Romans 10:8 & Dt. 30:14

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is “led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.” After his 40 days of fasting in the desert, Jesus is confronted by a set of increasingly complex temptations. He is tempted to fill his need for food through his own powers. Then he is tempted to be given power and control of the world, by rejecting God. Finally, he is tempted to be recognized as the Son of God by throwing himself of a wall. Jesus resists all of these in a classic style. Boy, does He know how to handle the devil?!

This story seems to be out of my own experience with temptations. I have never been tempted to turn stone in the bread, no matter how hungry I have been. I have never been offered power and control of the world, or even to get the self-affirmation that might come from jumping off a high place into the hands of angels. My temptations, which I have not always resisted, seem so mundane in comparison.

In this time of Lent and in this Year of Faith, we all may be invited to take some time to reflect on our own lives in greater depth. Maybe we are not tempted in the dramatic ways that this story reports, but it seems to me we are all tempted in similar ways. We all are tempted to try to fill our basic needs through our own effort, and to think we don’t need the help of others or God. We all are lured by positions or actions which we think will give us power and fame in the eyes of other and ourselves, which we think will give us power, control and esteem. It seems that we all have been tantalized by similar temptations as Jesus.

In my own experiences, I have been drawn into these temptations when I forget who I am or try to go it alone. Jesus reminds each of us that God is willing and able to give us what we really need, that if we forget our dependence on Him we will soon find we are left with our own limitations. We will soon discover that the power and control we think we need is greatly lacking. Then, we are in greater need of some verification of our own worth, by others and ourselves.

Our world, especially in the form of advertising, tries to tell us that they can give us all we need, but most people discover their claims are hollow. What we need to remember is the message Jesus preaches and lives, that we are all children of a loving God. He has given each of us much, but we all are limited in our own ability to be happy without Him. The key is to remember that we are in need of God in all things in our lives. This is something that we know but forget. As Saint Paul says, it is near us, in our mouths and hearts.

As we continue to celebrate this Lent, let us all take some time to remember that which is in us already. Let us reconnect to God and God’s word in each of us, in order to know again that we can count on God for all we need. We are limited only by our lack of freedom and knowledge that we are dependent on God. That is one of the means of the readings today. That is one of the primary messages of St. Ignatius. That is one the lessons we may take from the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Let pray and continue to search for some degree of spiritual freedom to know we are cared for by God in all our lives.

 

Fr. Don Highberger, S.J. is Special Assistant to the Vice President for Mission and Ministry.

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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

IS 58:9B-14

PS 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

LK 5:27-32

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

Today in Luke’s Gospel,Jesus’s choice to dine with tax collectors, the notoriously greedy characters of the Bible, causes quite the stir. I think it is rather easy to identify with the confused Pharisees—how initially frustrating it must have been to see Jesus eating with those people that are known to be cruel, unforgiving and living contrary to Jesus’s mission.

During Lent this season, we are called to focus on our relationship with God and prepare our hearts for Jesus’s resurrection. In addition, I believe that we can identify ways in which we can truly love others more fully—and not just those who are easy to love.

Don Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, wrote “The problem with Christian culture is we think of love as a commodity. We use it like money.” He illustrated this by pointing out the language that we use to discuss relationships. We value people. We invest in relationships. People are priceless. Relationships can go bankrupt. All of these are words that indicate that we possess a rather economically frugal view of love, rather than viewing it as an infinite resource. When I read this, I found it extraordinarily applicable to what I think Jesus was communicating by sharing a meal with the tax collectors. Without realizing it, we have turned into tax collectors ourselves—only on a whole other level. Instead of being greedy with money, we are often greedy with when it comes to the currency of love. Like our money belongs to God, our love belongs to all, and we are instructed to spend it without inhibition—even on the tax collectors. Is God not so full of love that there is more than enough, an unending vault that is disbursed to all? Just so, we can follow this example and offer our hearts, even when we find it difficult to love someone.

After all, in the readings today, Jesus says “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”  You cannot heal a person if you withhold all treatment, and the treatment for the brokenness of humanity is love. The marvelous truth of the gospel is that we are all sinners, but Christ does not leave us alone in our debt.

During this season of reflection, repentance and preparation, we have the opportunity to seek out ways in which we can truly care for others, as God has cared for us. It is our nature to budget our affection and withhold it from those we deem undeserving, but that limitation comes from our desire to use love as a reward. Jesus died for all people, and our love toward one another is not to be treated as a method of payment.

Above all, the beauty of “spending” love without limits is that, with God as our investor, we can never go bankrupt.

Amanda Bartelson is a junior studying nursing. She is active in the Micah Program and the Spanish Mass community.

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Friday, 15 February 2013

Friday after Ash Wednesday

IS 58:1-9A

PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19

MT 9:14-15

The readings for the day can be found here.

I have always appreciated the self-deconstructive correlation of readings and practices for Lent: on Ash Wednesday, a day loaded with public symbols and practices, the readings critique public religiosity and shows of personal holiness, and today, Isaiah has God reject the religious practices of the people, just as so many other prophetic oracles do (e.g. Amos 5:21ff; Micah 6:6-8; Jeremiah 7:21ff; Hosea 6:6, and any number of others). In fact, I think it would be difficult to find another religion’s holy book which is so suspicious of religious practices!  Note that the whole context of the reading from Isaiah is a critique of the idea that religious observance obliges God to show us favor: “They [Israel] ask me [God] to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God” (58:2) – we have done all the right rituals and gestures, so God owes us. An odd paradox in any kind of gift-giving is that the giver receives all kinds of benefits (praise and feelings of self-righteousness and the knowledge that someone owes him/her), while the receiver ends up in debt to the giver. (*If this sounds warped, think of the fun and games of Christmas shopping – finding the perfect gift to match the other person’s gift for you and strike the same level of intimacy in the relationship.*) We all know in our heads that healthy religion doesn’t work that way – OF COURSE God doesn’t want such a transactional model of religion that leaves us feeling like we can manipulate favors out of a God who is in our debt – but I think a lot of times we fall into that old script anyway.

In a liturgical season that has more “gestures” of external religious practice than any other, we are paradoxically called to put an end to what Franciscan priest Richard Rohr calls “personal holiness projects” – efforts to shine up our image (with God, with other people, even with ourselves) for our own benefit; instead, we are called back to justice as the hallmark of appropriate relationship with God. No other mode of self-identification – not ashes on the forehead, not doctrinal orthodoxy, not scintillating worship, not stimulating preaching, not amazing music – is adequate without justice.

Where does that leave us in a season like this? Do we stop fasting and praying and giving (which maybe we didn’t really want to do anyway, and now we have a good reason for it)? Instead, I suggest we shift our understanding of why we do what we do: Isaiah speaks for Israel: “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” (58:3) We have done our good thing, so now you owe us, but things still aren’t working the way we want! What exactly do we expect God to notice, if not that we have put God in our debt? Our religious practices are not really about GOD, as if God needed or wanted our hunger or our pain or even our extra prayers: it’s not about keeping our accounts positive with God, or keeping God in our debt, or even keeping God on our side – the bad news is that we can’t do any such thing, but the good news is that we don’t have to. We do what we do to make US notice it: we practice to transform our vision of the world, of one another, of ourselves, and (hopefully) to keep us close to the gritty reality of the world. In particular in this season, fasting should teach us what hunger feels like, remind us how many people don’t have a choice about being hungry, and drive us to do something about it. It’s no wonder that the word in the gospels when Jesus felt compassion, splagchnizomai, means to be moved in one’s guts – compassion feels like hunger, means knowing how it feels to be hungry (hence “hungering and thirsting for justice,” maybe?), and like hunger, demands that we do something about it. We need only look around us to see and be moved by people being treated unjustly for being different, or not having enough to eat, or being silenced for challenging the powers that be. Now is the time to do something about it – fast!

Patrick Cousins works in the Department of Campus Ministry.

 

 

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Thursday, 14 February 2013

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Dt 30:15-20

Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 And 6

Lk 9:22-25

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

Choose Life

As we begin our Lenten journey, the readings offer us a choice: You have set before you life and death – Choose Life! And Jesus comes along in the Gospel to remind us that choosing Life may actually require us to forfeit life. As I settle into prayer with these words, the short phrase Choose Life echoes in my heart.

Choosing life today might call me to slow down, when I want to rush, or to rush, when I would rather linger. Choosing life may invite me to be kinder and gentler when I feel my emotions rising more brusquely. Choosing life may mean standing fast when I might shrink back and take a comfortable road. It may mean standing up for myself or for others or for justice, in the face of challenges. Where will I find the courage to choose life, in whatever my day presents? I will find it in these very words – Choose Life – the Word of God that carries within it the power to renew.

As I sit in prayer, Choosing Life seems to urge me to open my whole self to the loving embrace of Jesus and to rest in his gentle arms enfolding me in peace. I let God’s love flood the whole of my being and recreate me in the Divine image, in Love. With every breath I surrender to God’s life as it flows through me, renewing, healing, loving. Yes. Yes to God. Yes to Love. Yes to Life.

 

Sr. Amy Hereford, C.S.J. is a faculty member in the School of Professional Studies.

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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Ash Wednesday

Jl 2:12-18

Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 And 17

2 Cor 5:20—6:2

Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

From Ash Wednesday to the Wednesday before the Holy Triduum preceding Easter Sunday, Catholics and men and women of any number of other faith traditions all over the world observe Lent, a liturgical season often associated with drab colors, limited food options, and giving up any number of things we like and probably often shouldn’t do, anyway.  Some merely regard Lent as an opportunity to quit smoking, diet, and quit doing any number of things we might like, but need to control, or stop, altogether.

Lent is, though, more of an opportunity, a real opportunity to enter into more profound shifts in our lives than losing weight—not a bad thing, but certainly not the only thing.  Lent is, in fact, an opportunity to enter more deeply into the life of Jesus, the life of the Kingdom we say we pray for, the Kingdom we try to help create, the Kingdom we individually and  collectively clearly need. Lent is, in fact, an opportunity for a real, long-lasting attitude adjustment.

This grand opportunity for change–for conversion, probably more precisely—can reconcile us to God, to the Kingdom, to ourselves, to each other.

Have a blessed Lent…

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REFLECTION

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

On this first day of Lent, God calls us understand the love by which we were created, the love we’re called to spread to each other, the love understands who we are in relationship with God.  If our prayer,  in Lent and out, can be simply Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned…we’ve begun our own journey, our own return to Jesus with our whole heart.

How do we do this?  We do it in prayer, fasting and almsgiving—the same methods Jesus prescribed for his disciples.    These three opportunities open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, helping us prepare for our own change, our own conversion.  These three opportunities help us draw attention away from ourselves and give the glory to God, because we’re praying, fasting and giving alms for God.

Lent is a retreat, for all practical purposes, punctuated by regular retreat-like practices.  We pray, we fast, we perform acts of charity.  We look at our own hearts, checking what we say and what we do, and how those coincide.  We seek the freedom, in this and all retreats, to follow God as God calls us to follow Him.

Our Lenten retreat helps us recall the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, and Moses on Sinai, and the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness, all seeking God.  We can seek God as well this Lent.  We can seek freedom this Lent.  We can return to Jesus with our whole heart. We can ask God to create a clean heart for us, to renew a steadfast spirit in us.  We can pray and fast and give alms, all for the glory of God.

We can.  And Lent is a great time to do it.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

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Are you hungry for God and do you thirst for his holiness? God wants to set our hearts ablaze with the fire of his Holy Spirit that we may share in his holiness and radiate the joy of the gospel to those around us. St. Augustine of Hippo tells us that there are two kinds of people and two kinds of love: “One is holy, the other is selfish. One is subject to God; the other endeavors to equal Him.” We are what we love. God wants to free our hearts from all that would keep us captive to selfishness and sin. “Rend your hearts and not your garments” says the prophet Joel (Joel 2:12). The Holy Spirit is ever ready to transform our hearts and to lead us further in God’s way of truth and holiness.

Why did Jesus single out prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for his disciples? The Jews considered these three as the cardinal works of the religious life. These were seen as the key signs of a pious person, the three great pillars on which the good life was based. Jesus pointed to the heart of the matter. Why do you pray, fast, and give alms? To draw attention to yourself so that others may notice and think highly of you? Or to give glory to God? The Lord warns his disciples of self-seeking glory – the preoccupation with looking good and seeking praise from others. True piety is something more than feeling good or looking holy. True piety is loving devotion to God. It is an attitude of awe, reverence, worship and obedience. It is a gift and working of the Holy Spirit that enables us to devote our lives to God with a holy desire to please him in all things (Isaiah 11:1-2).

What is the sure reward which Jesus points out to his disciples? It is communion with God our Father. In him alone we find the fulness of life, happiness, and truth. May the prayer of Augustine of Hippo, recorded in his Confessions, be our prayer this Lent: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete. The Lord wants to renew us each day and give us new hearts of love and compassion. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Seek him expectantly in prayer, with fasting, and in generous giving to those in need.

The forty days of Lent is the annual retreat of the people of God in imitation of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. Forty is a significant number in the scriptures. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land.  Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God. We are called to journey with the Lord in a special season of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and penitence as we prepare to celebrate the feast of Easter, the Christian Passover. The Lord gives us spiritual food and supernatural strength to seek his face and to prepare ourselves for spiritual combat and testing. We, too, must follow in the way of the cross in order to share in the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection. As we begin this holy season of testing and preparation, let’s ask the Lord for a fresh outpouring of his Holy Spirit that we may grow in faith, hope, and love and embrace his will more fully in our lives.

“Lord Jesus, give me a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, and a great love of you. Take from me all lukewarmness in the meditation of your word, and dullness in prayer. Give me fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace, and fill me with compassion for others, especially those in need, that I may respond with generosity.”

 

Fr. Paul Stark, S.J. is Vice President for Mission and Ministry.

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Daily Reflection: April 8, 2012

The Resurrection of the Lord

The Mass of Easter Sunday

Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

Col 3:1-4 OR 1 Cor 5:6b-8

Jn 20:1-9

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Peter’s Basilica
Easter Sunday, 23 March 2008

“Resurrexi, et adhuc tecum sum. Alleluia! – I have risen, I am still with you. Alleluia!” Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus, crucified and risen, repeats this joyful proclamation to us today: the Easter proclamation. Let us welcome it with deep wonder and gratitude!

“Resurrexi et adhuc tecum sum – I have risen, I am still with you, for ever.” These words, taken from an ancient version of Psalm 138 (v. 18b), were sung at the beginning of today’s Mass. In them, at the rising of the Easter sun, the Church recognizes the voice of Jesus himself who, on rising from death, turns to the Father filled with gladness and love, and exclaims: My Father, here I am! I have risen, I am still with you, and so I shall be for ever; your Spirit never abandoned me. In this way we can also come to a new understanding of other passages from the psalm: “If I climb the heavens, you are there; if I descend into the underworld, you are there … Even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as clear as day; for you, darkness is like light” (Ps 138:8,12). It is true: in the solemn Easter vigil, darkness becomes light, night gives way to the day that knows no sunset. The death and resurrection of the Word of God incarnate is an event of invincible love, it is the victory of that Love which has delivered us from the slavery of sin and death. It has changed the course of history, giving to human life an indestructible and renewed meaning and value.

“I have risen and I am still with you, for ever.” These words invite us to contemplate the risen Christ, letting his voice resound in our heart. With his redeeming sacrifice, Jesus of Nazareth has made us adopted children of God, so that we too can now take our place in the mysterious dialogue between him and the Father. We are reminded of what he once said to those who were listening: “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt 11:27). In this perspective, we note that the words addressed by the risen Jesus to the Father on this day – “I am still with you, for ever” – apply indirectly to us as well, “children of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (cf. Rom 8:17). Through the death and resurrection of Christ, we too rise to new life today, and uniting our voice with his, we proclaim that we wish to remain for ever with God, our infinitely good and merciful Father.

In this way we enter the depths of the Paschal mystery. The astonishing event of the resurrection of Jesus is essentially an event of love: the Father’s love in handing over his Son for the salvation of the world; the Son’s love in abandoning himself to the Father’s will for us all; the Spirit’s love in raising Jesus from the dead in his transfigured body. And there is more: the Father’s love which “newly embraces” the Son, enfolding him in glory; the Son’s love returning to the Father in the power of the Spirit, robed in our transfigured humanity. From today’s solemnity, in which we relive the absolute, once-and-for-all experience of Jesus’s resurrection, we receive an appeal to be converted to Love; we receive an invitation to live by rejecting hatred and selfishness, and to follow with docility in the footsteps of the Lamb that was slain for our salvation, to imitate the Redeemer who is “gentle and lowly in heart”, who is “rest for our souls” (cf. Mt 11:29).

Dear Christian brothers and sisters in every part of the world, dear men and women whose spirit is sincerely open to the truth, let no heart be closed to the omnipotence of this redeeming love! Jesus Christ died and rose for all; he is our hope – true hope for every human being. Today, just as he did with his disciples in Galilee before returning to the Father, the risen Jesus now sends us everywhere as witnesses of his hope, and he reassures us: I am with you always, all days, until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). Fixing the gaze of our spirit on the glorious wounds of his transfigured body, we can understand the meaning and value of suffering, we can tend the many wounds that continue to disfigure humanity in our own day. In his glorious wounds we recognize the indestructible signs of the infinite mercy of the God of whom the prophet says: it is he who heals the wounds of broken hearts, who defends the weak and proclaims the freedom of slaves, who consoles all the afflicted and bestows upon them the oil of gladness instead of a mourning robe, a song of praise instead of a sorrowful heart (cf. Is 61:1,2,3). If with humble trust we draw near to him, we encounter in his gaze the response to the deepest longings of our heart: to know God and to establish with him a living relationship in an authentic communion of love, which can fill our lives, our interpersonal and social relations with that same love. For this reason, humanity needs Christ: in him, our hope, “we have been saved” (cf. Rom 8:24).

How often relations between individuals, between groups and between peoples are marked not by love but by selfishness, injustice, hatred and violence! These are the scourges of humanity, open and festering in every corner of the planet, although they are often ignored and sometimes deliberately concealed; wounds that torture the souls and bodies of countless of our brothers and sisters. They are waiting to be tended and healed by the glorious wounds of our Risen Lord (cf. 1 Pet 2:24-25) and by the solidarity of people who, following in his footsteps, perform deeds of charity in his name, make an active commitment to justice, and spread luminous signs of hope in areas bloodied by conflict and wherever the dignity of the human person continues to be scorned and trampled. It is hoped that these are precisely the places where gestures of moderation and forgiveness will increase!

Dear brothers and sisters! Let us allow the light that streams forth from this solemn day to enlighten us; let us open ourselves in sincere trust to the risen Christ, so that his victory over evil and death may also triumph in each one of us, in our families, in our cities and in our nations. Let it shine forth in every part of the world. In particular, how can we fail to remember certain African regions, such as Darfur and Somalia, the tormented Middle East, especially the Holy Land, Iraq, Lebanon, and finally Tibet, all of whom I encourage to seek solutions that will safeguard peace and the common good! Let us invoke the fullness of his Paschal gifts, through the intercession of Mary who, after sharing the sufferings of the passion and crucifixion of her innocent Son, also experienced the inexpressible joy of his resurrection. Sharing in the glory of Christ, may she be the one to protect us and guide us along the path of fraternal solidarity and peace. These are my Easter greetings, which I address to all who are present here, and to men and women of every nation and continent united with us through radio and television. Happy Easter!

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Daily Reflection: April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday – Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

Gn 1:1 – 2:2

Ps 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35

Gn 22:1-18

Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

Ex 14:15-15:1

Ex. 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18

Is 54:5-14

Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13

Is 55:1-11

Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

Bar 3:9-15, 32-4:4

Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11

Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11

Ps 42:3, 5, 43:3, 4

Rom 6:3-11

Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

Mk 16:1-7

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Peter’s Basilica
Holy Saturday, 22 March 2008


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his farewell discourse, Jesus announced his imminent death and resurrection to his disciples with these mysterious words:  “I go away, and I will come to you”, he said (Jn 14:28). Dying is a “going away”. Even if the body of the deceased remains behind, he himself has gone away into the unknown, and we cannot follow him (cf. Jn 13:36).  Yet in Jesus’s case, there is something utterly new, which changes the world.  In the case of our own death, the “going away” is definitive, there is no return.  Jesus, on the other hand, says of his death: “I go away, and I will come to you.”  It is by going away that he comes.  His going ushers in a completely new and greater way of being present.  By dying he enters into the love of the Father. His dying is an act of love. Love, however, is immortal. Therefore, his going away is transformed into a new coming, into a form of presence which reaches deeper and does not come to an end. During his earthly life, Jesus, like all of us, was tied to the external conditions of bodily existence:  to a determined place and a determined time.  Bodiliness places limits on our existence.  We cannot be simultaneously in two different places. Our time is destined to come to an end. And between the “I” and the “you” there is a wall of otherness.  To be sure, through love we can somehow enter the other’s existence. Nevertheless, the insurmountable barrier of being different remains in place. Yet Jesus, who is now totally transformed through the act of love, is free from such barriers and limits. He is able not only to pass through closed doors in the outside world, as the Gospels recount (cf. Jn 20:19). He can pass through the interior door separating the “I” from the “you”, the closed door between yesterday and today, between the past and the future. On the day of his solemn entry into Jerusalem, when some Greeks asked to see him, Jesus replied with the parable of the grain of wheat which has to pass through death in order to bear much fruit.  In this way he foretold his own destiny:  these words were not addressed simply to one or two Greeks in the space of a few minutes. Through his Cross, through his going away, through his dying like the grain of wheat, he would truly arrive among the Greeks, in such a way that they could see him and touch him through faith.  His going away is transformed into a coming, in the Risen Lord’s universal manner of presence, yesterday, today and for ever. He also comes today, and he embraces all times and all places. Now he can even surmount the wall of otherness that separates the “I” from the “you”. This happened with Paul, who describes the process of his conversion and his Baptism in these words:  “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Through the coming of the Risen One, Paul obtained a new identity.  His closed “I” was opened.  Now he lives in communion with Jesus Christ, in the great “I” of believers who have become – as he puts it – “one in Christ” (Gal 3:28).

So, dear friends, it is clear that, through Baptism, the mysterious words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper become present for you once more. In Baptism, the Lord enters your life through the door of your heart. We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another. He passes through all these doors. This is the reality of Baptism:  he, the Risen One, comes; he comes to you and joins his life with yours, drawing you into the open fire of his love. You become one, one with him, and thus one among yourselves. At first this can sound rather abstract and unrealistic. But the more you live the life of the baptized, the more you can experience the truth of these words. Believers – the baptized – are never truly cut off from one another. Continents, cultures, social structures or even historical distances may separate us. But when we meet, we know one another on the basis of the same Lord, the same faith, the same hope, the same love, which form us. Then we experience that the foundation of our lives is the same. We experience that in our inmost depths we are anchored in the same identity, on the basis of which all our outward differences, however great they may be, become secondary. Believers are never totally cut off from one another.  We are in communion because of our deepest identity: Christ within us. Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world:  distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close (cf. Eph 2:13).

The Church expresses the inner reality of Baptism as the gift of a new identity through the tangible elements used in the administration of the sacrament. The fundamental element in Baptism is water; next, in second place, is light, which is used to great effect in the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil. Let us take a brief look at these two elements.  In the final chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, there is a statement about Christ which does not speak directly of water, but the Old Testament allusions nevertheless point clearly to the mystery of water and its symbolic meaning. Here we read:  “The God of peace … brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant” (13:20). In this sentence, there is an echo of the prophecy of Isaiah, in which Moses is described as the shepherd whom the Lord brought up from the water, from the sea (cf. 63:11). And Jesus now appears as the new, definitive Shepherd who brings to fulfilment what Moses had done:  he leads us out of the deadly waters of the sea, out of the waters of death.  In this context we may recall that Moses’ mother placed him in a basket in the Nile.  Then, through God’s providence, he was taken out of the water, carried from death to life, and thus – having himself been saved from the waters of death – he was able to lead others through the sea of death.  Jesus descended for us into the dark waters of death. But through his blood, so the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, he was brought back from death:  his love united itself to the Father’s love, and thus from the abyss of death he was able to rise to life. Now he raises us from the waters of death to true life. This is exactly what happens in Baptism: he draws us towards himself, he draws us into true life. He leads us through the often murky sea of history, where we are frequently in danger of sinking amid all the confusion and perils. In Baptism he takes us, as it were, by the hand, he leads us along the path that passes through the Red Sea of this life and introduces us to everlasting life, the true and upright life. Let us grasp his hand firmly!  Whatever may happen, whatever may befall us, let us not lose hold of his hand! Let us walk along the path that leads to life.

In the second place, there is the symbol of light and fire. Gregory of Tours (4th century) recounts a practice that in some places was preserved for a long time, of lighting the new fire for the celebration of the Easter Vigil directly from the sun, using a crystal.Light and fire, so to speak, were received anew from heaven, so that all the lights and fires of the year could be kindled from them.  This is a symbol of what we are celebrating in the Easter Vigil. Through his radical love for us, in which the heart of God and the heart of man touched, Jesus Christ truly took light from heaven and brought it to the earth – the light of truth and the fire of love that transform man’s being.  He brought the light, and now we know who God is and what God is like. Thus we also know what our human situation is: what we are, and for what purpose we exist.  When we are baptized, the fire of this light is brought down deep within ourselves. Thus, in the early Church, Baptism was also called the Sacrament of Illumination: God’s light enters into us; thus we ourselves become children of light.  We must not allow this light of truth, that shows us the path, to be extinguished. We must protect it from all the forces that seek to eliminate it so as to cast us back into darkness regarding God and ourselves. Darkness, at times, can seem comfortable. I can hide, and spend my life asleep. Yet we are not called to darkness, but to light.  In our baptismal promises, we rekindle this light, so to speak, year by year. Yes, I believe that the world and my life are not the product of chance, but of eternal Reason and eternal Love, they are created by Almighty God. Yes, I believe that in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, in his Cross and resurrection, the face of God has been revealed;  that in him, God is present in our midst, he unites us and leads us towards our goal, towards eternal Love.  Yes, I believe that the Holy Spirit gives us the word of truth and enlightens our hearts; I believe that in the communion of the Church we all become one Body with the Lord, and thus we encounter his resurrection and eternal life. The Lord has granted us the light of truth. This light is also fire, a powerful force coming from God, a force that does not destroy, but seeks to transform our hearts, so that we truly become men of God, and so that his peace can become active in this world.

In the early Church there was a custom whereby the Bishop or the priest, after the homily, would cry out to the faithful: “Conversi ad Dominum” – turn now towards the Lord. This meant in the first place that they would turn towards the East, towards the rising sun, the sign of Christ returning, whom we go to meet when we celebrate the Eucharist. Where this was not possible, for some reason, they would at least turn towards the image of Christ in the apse, or towards the Cross, so as to orient themselves inwardly towards the Lord. Fundamentally, this involved an interior event;  conversion, the turning of our soul towards Jesus Christ and thus towards the living God, towards the true light.  Linked with this, then, was the other exclamation that still today, before the Eucharistic Prayer, is addressed to the community of the faithful: “Sursum corda” – “Lift up your hearts”, high above all our misguided concerns, desires, anxieties and thoughtlessness – “Lift up your hearts, your inner selves!” In both exclamations we are summoned, as it were, to a renewal of our Baptism:  Conversi ad Dominum – we must always turn away from false paths, onto which we stray so often in our thoughts and actions. We must turn ever anew towards him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We must be converted ever anew, turning with our whole life towards the Lord. And ever anew we must withdraw our hearts from the force of gravity, which pulls them down, and inwardly we must raise them high:  in truth and love. At this hour, let us thank the Lord, because through the power of his word and of the holy Sacraments, he points us in the right direction and draws our heart upwards. Let us pray to him in these words: Yes, Lord, make us Easter people, men and women of light, filled with the fire of your love.  Amen.

© Copyright 2008 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20080322_veglia-pasquale_en.html

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Daily Reflection: April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Is 52:13-53:12

Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25

Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Jn 18:1-19:42

The readings for the day can be found here.

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Peter’s Basilica
Good Friday, 21 March 2008

Dear brothers and sisters, this year too we have walked along the way of the cross, the Via Crucis, evoking again with faith the stages of the passion of Christ. Our eyes have turned to contemplate the sufferings and the anguish that our Redeemer had to bear in the hour of great sorrow, which entailed the highpoint of his earthly mission. Jesus dies on the cross and lies in the tomb. The day of Good Friday, so permeated by human sadness and religious silence, closes in the silence of meditation and prayer. In returning home, we too, like those who were present at the sacrifice of Jesus, beat our breasts, recalling what happened. Is it possible to remain indifferent before the death of the Lord, of the Son of God? For us, for our salvation he became man, so as to be able to suffer and die.

Brothers and sisters, let us direct today our gaze toward Christ, a gaze frequently distracted by scattered and passing earthly interests. Let us pause to contemplate his cross. The cross, fount of life and school of justice and peace, is the universal patrimony of pardon and mercy. It is permanent proof of a self-emptying and infinite love that brought God to become man, vulnerable like us, unto dying crucified.

Through the sorrowful way of the cross, the men of all ages, reconciled and redeemed by the blood of Christ, have become friends of God, sons of the heavenly Father. “Friend,” is what Jesus calls Judas and he offers him the last and dramatic call to conversion. “Friend,” he calls each of us, because he is the authentic friend of everyone. Unfortunately, we do not always manage to perceive the depth of this limitless love that God has for us. For him, there is no distinction of race or culture. Jesus Christ died to liberate the humanity of old of their ignorance of God, of the circle of hate and violence, of the slavery to sin. The cross makes us brothers and sisters.

But let us ask ourselves, in this moment, what have we done with this gift, what have we done with the revelation of the face of God in Christ, with the revelation of the love of God that conquers hate. Many, in our age as well, do not know God and cannot encounter him in Christ crucified. Many are in search of a love or a liberty that excludes God. Many believe they have no need of God.

Dear friends: After having lived together the passion of Jesus, let us this night allow his sacrifice on the cross to question us. Let us permit him to challenge our human certainties. Let us open our hearts. Jesus is the truth that makes us free to love. Let us not be afraid: upon dying, the Lord destroyed sin and saved sinners, that is, all of us. The Apostle Peter writes: “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). This is the truth of Good Friday: On the cross, the Redeemer has made us adoptive sons of God who he created in his image and likeness. Let us remain, then, in adoration before the cross.

Christ, give us the peace we seek, the happiness we desire, the love the fills our heart thirsty for the infinite. This is our prayer for this night, Jesus, Son of God, who died for us on the cross and was resurrected on the third day. Amen.

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