Monday, February 29, 2016
Monday of the Third Week of Lent – Luke 4:24-30
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray. He begins by telling them that words alone are not sufficient. Often I realize when I am praying Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer that I am not fully present to what I am doing. Yes, I am praying the words. However, too often, my mind is miles away.
One of the gifts of the prayers such as the Our Father and Hail Mary is that we can pray them very easily. These prayers are ingrained in our beings. Most of us learned them at a very young age when, most likely, we simply rattled them off! Yet, despite our lack of attentiveness, we still were praying even if it only was on a superficial level.
The gift is that these formal prayers become an integral part of us. The downside is that they may become automatic. However, even automatic prayer is still prayer if our intention is to pray. And when our minds wander, we may not be as fully present to God as we hoped to be. The gift is that God understands us. God is the one who created us with “monkey” mind: a mind that swings from one limb to another in a few seconds. God is patient with us!
Today Jesus gifts his disciples with the Our Father. While you have heard this prayer thousands of times, today I invite to pray the Our Father rather than simply say the Our Father. Take your time and pray this prayer slowly and mindfully two times. Then sit quietly for a few minutes. If we do this regularly every day, we may notice a change within ourselves and perhaps a change in our relationship with Jesus. What a gift that would be!
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Third Sunday of Lent – Luke 13:1-9
The first part of the Gospel reading for today is sobering. Luke writes about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of sacrifices. Jesus says: “Do you think that the Galileans who suffered were greater than other Galileans?” Jesus continues on in this vein. The point that Jesus is trying to make with the people is that if they do not repent, they will perish.
Jesus then tells them another parable. He says: “There once was a person who planted a fig tree in his garden. When the man came to pick the fruit, the tree had not born any fruit. The man immediately went to his gardener and told him: “For the past three years I have come to pick figs from these trees and for the past three years, the tree has not borne any fruit. I want you to cut the tree down now.” The gardener said: “Sir, I ask you to leave the tree one more year. I will fertilize it and cultivate the ground around it. And if it does not bear fruit this year, then you can cut it down.”
What a patient man this gardener is! The gardener wants to give this tree one more chance. He is unwilling to “cut it down.” It is seldom that anyone has a perfect garden. Gardeners learn to let nature take its course and yet to intervene when it is appropriate. This gardener was determined to try some other tactics before uprooting the plant.
This Gospel gives a wonderful image of God. God is the gardener – a hopeful and patient gardener. God will not toss us aside immediately if we are not bearing fruit. Our gardener, God, will fertilize us, nurture us, and pull the weeds that are growing within and around us. However, we have to allow God to be our gardener. The question for us is: will we bring our weeds to God and ask him to help us uproot the weeds from our hearts?
If we ask God to do so, God will gift and grace us as we work together with God to uproot the weeds from our lives. Hopefully, over time, the weeds will gradually disappear from our lives. We have to trust our Divine Gardener’s timing. We human beings typically want instant answers and instant solutions. However, our weeds may be deeply rooted and it may take time for them to be completely uprooted. Will we trust God, our gardener? Will we strive to be patient with the process?
Today I invite you to ask yourself: What is the weed I want uprooted from my heart and life? Take your desire to God and place it in God’s hands. God is trustworthy! God will not fail you! In the meantime, trust and be patient.
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Saturday of the Second Week of Lent – Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Today the Pharisees continue their criticism of Jesus. They are upset and angry that Jesus not only welcomes sinners but he also has the audacity sit down at table and eat with them. How dare he do this? As always, Jesus is able to read the minds and the hearts of the Pharisees.
Jesus decides to respond to their unspoken criticism in a roundabout way. As he often does, Jesus tells them a parable. Today’s parable is the familiar story of the prodigal son. We know that the father in the story has two sons. The youngest son asks his father for his inheritance and the father agrees to his request. The father divides all that he had and gives his second son his fair share. This son immediately takes his inheritance and leaves. He has wanderlust and he is anxious to see the wonders of the world. However, in the process of his travels, he spends his entire inheritance.
On the other hand, the eldest son is extremely responsible. He is obedient to his father and he manages the estate well. He is a dutiful son and a good steward of all that was in his charge, including the servants and the temporalities. The eldest son was faithful to his father and to his duties.
Over time, the youngest son squanders his inheritance on loose living. When his money runs out, he has to tend swine as he has no other skills. His life consists of drudgery and hard, dirty work. He spends his days and nights with the swine. It is a hard and lonely life.
Finally, the younger son comes to his senses and he decides to return home. (Note: it is his hunger and poverty that brings him to his senses.) He has nothing to eat. He is so hungry that he is tempted to eat what the swine are eating! He knows that his father’s servants are well fed. If he worked for his father, he would have food to eat and a roof over his head.
However, he also realizes that he needs to ask his father to forgive him. He realizes that his father owes him nothing. However, if he could work for his father, at least he would have food to eat and a place to live. So the youngest son began his journey home.
Imagine that you are the youngest son who is returning home. What thoughts might go through your mind? What would you plan to say to your father? How high do you think your anxiety level would be? What would be your greatest fear? And yet, what do you have nothing to lose? Your life is in shambles and, if necessary, you will accept whatever work is given to you, no matter how menial it might be. Your pride has to be left behind.
As we know, the father had been looking for his son since the day his son had left him. Every day the father went out hoping that he would see his son walking up the road. Until this day, every day the father had returned home sad, yearning for his son to come home. The father waited faithfully day after day.
Finally the day arrives when the father sees someone coming down the road and realizes that it is his youngest son! Luke writes: “The father was filled with compassion” (and likely great joy and happiness). As soon as the father sees his son, he runs to him and embraces him! Immediately, the prodigal son know that he is forgiven and he realizes how deeply his father loves him.
Today is a good day to place ourselves in the shoes of the prodigal son or the prodigal daughter. At times in our lives, we also have left the home of our God. At times, we have wandered away. Perhaps we also squandered what little we had. How long did we keep our distance from God? Were we afraid that God would never forgive us? Perhaps we thought we didn’t deserve to be forgiven. Despite our doubts, God is always on the lookout for us, yearning for us, waiting for us to return home. God will never stop loving us!
Today take a few moments and thank God for the steadfast love, care, and blessings that God has bestowed on you in your life. Bask for a few moments this reality. There is no greater gift. God will never leave us. When we do leave God for a period of time, God will look for us patiently until we choose to return home. Then the celebration will begin!
Friday, February 26, 2016
Friday of the Second Week of Lent – Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Today Jesus tells us another parable. This parable is about a landowner and his vineyard. The landowner planted the vineyard and then he built a wall around it to protect it the animals. He also dug a winepress and built a tower. After the landowner had all of this completed, he leased his property to some of the local farmers who were given the responsibility of tending his vineyard and his home while he was gone for several months.
As the time for harvesting the grapes drew near, the landowner dispatched several of his servants to bring him his share of the crop. However, when the servants arrived, the tenants took them and beat one servant, killed another and then stoned a third servant. When the landowner received this news, he was outraged and saddened.
After a time, he decided to send another group of servants to deal with his tenants. This time he thought it wise to send twice as many servants. Yet, the results were the same: all of these servants were killed also. When the owner received this news, he finally decided to send his own son. He thought the tenants would respect his son. However, when the tenants saw the landowner’s son coming, they decided that this was their great opportunity. If they killed the owner’s son, then they could seize his inheritance. That is what they did.
As Jesus was telling his listeners this parable, he knew that this scenario would be played out in his own life. He realized that the Pharisees were plotting against him and, most likely, they were planning to kill him. This parable was a foreshadowing of what was to come. Were the Pharisees taken aback by Jesus’ astuteness?
If we had been in Jesus’ shoes, I wonder if we would have had the courage to continue on this journey. Matthew makes it clear that Jesus knew that likely he would be killed, but he stayed true to his call. Despite the threat, He continued to preach and teach. Today may we draw the strength from Jesus to be true to “our call — whatever that call may be. Jesus will walk with us, guide us, and strengthen us. May we walk with Jesus today and every day.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent – Luke 16:19-31
Today’s Gospel is the story of Lazarus and the rich man. This is another story with which we are very familiar. Lazarus was a poor man and his body was covered with sores. He begged right outside the door of the rich man’s house. The rich man was always dressed in fine clothing and ate only the finest food. Even though Lazarus was present outside the rich man’s house day in and day out, the rich man ignored Lazarus!
These two men died within a few days of each other. When Lazarus died, he was immediately taken to heaven by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. Shortly after this, the rich man also died and was buried. The rich man, however, did not go the heaven. Instead, he went to the netherworld where he suffered great torment. By some means, the rich man was able to see Abraham in heaven and surprisingly he saw Lazarus at Abraham’s side. The rich man was stunned! How could this be? Shouldn’t he be the one at Abraham’s side?
The rich man called out to Abraham and begged him to send Lazarus to him with some water because he was suffering great torment. However, Abraham reminded the rich man that he had received many gifts and graces while he was on earth while Lazarus suffered. Now however, their positions were reversed: Lazarus was receiving many graces and much comfort while the rich man was the one in torment. Lazarus was reaping the gifts and blessings that had come from living a good life, while the rich man was reaping the results of the selfish choices he had made in his life.
Today may be a good day to ask ourselves what we are sowing in our daily lives. Is it love, care, concern, peace, joy, and generosity or is it negativity, self-centeredness, greed, and criticism? We will reap what we sow. Which seeds we will choose to sow in our lives today and tomorrow? Let us be mindful of our choices.