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Archive for the ‘Lent B’ Category

Fifth Sunday of Lent

LENT V – YEAR “B” 2006
In the book called the ‘Unexpected Universe’
there is a story about a man
called the Star Thrower
and it goes like this:
On a long and wide tropical beach
occasionally the tide and the surf
would combine just right
and would cause a lot of shell fish
to be cast up on the shore.
Some of these shellfish were very beautiful
and so after they were cast up
professional collectors and sellers
would descend on the beach
and swoop up all the shells.
Some of the shells were very valuable
for they were very rare,
and a lot of money could be made
by a diligent collector.
One morning,
after the tide and the surf
had been just right,
and many shells
had been tossed up on the beach,
a man was seen walking by himself
far off in the distance
picking up starfish
which had also been washed up by the tide
and he was throwing them, one by one,
back into the ocean.
Curious about what he was doing with the starfish
while so many others were collecting shells,
someone went over to him and asked him
if he too collected things on the beach.
“The sun is up and the tide is going out.
And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”
And he gently picked up another star fish.
When asked about how saving star fish
could possibly make a difference
in the face of all the collecting going on,
he said,
as he threw the star fish back into the sea:
“It made all the difference in the world to that one.”
I think that story has a lot to say about our world today.
In the midst of this world
many of us exploit things
for our own personal benefit,
we take every advantage to get ahead,
to gain more than we already have.
In our rush to look out for ourselves,
we so often ignore the suffering
that is all around us.
Jesus was a star thrower.
He moved among the people –
who were like the dying starfish,
longing for the ocean.
Instead of living to enhance and enrich his own life,
Jesus paid attention to those who were in need.
Jesus came among us
to rescue and reclaim lost souls,
to set us free from the power of sin and death,
by returning us to the ocean of God’s love,
God’s law and God’s power.

He came to restore wholeness
to those who lay helpless and abandoned
on the shores of life
where they had been cast by an unseen force –
or in some cases,
where they had thoughtlessly and foolishly
caused themselves to be stranded
on the shores of life.
Jesus helped others at a cost to himself.
As he says in scripture:
“Foxes have holes,
and the birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man
has no where to lay his head.”
Jesus renounced everything
for the sake of bringing life
to those around him.
In the end he lay down his very life –
so that others might live
so that others might know the blessings of God,
and so that others might be returned
to the ocean of God’s love.

Some would say
that the cost is too high
to expect this of us,
we are not Jesus,
we do not have the special graces that he had.
It is true,
that Jesus received special graces,
but God has promised the very same grace to us,
if we would but walk with him.
The power of Jesus,
the love of Jesus,
the compassion of Jesus,
and the everlasting life of Jesus,
are all available to us – just for the asking,
if we but follow him,
if we are willing to walk as he walked,
living and dying
in obedience to the Father.
Jesus has explained that:
The one who loves only a worldly existence,
will lose the true purpose
for which he was created.
Jesus understood that:
The more we seek to have everything for ourselves,
the greater is our attachment to material goods.
The more we seek to avoid all pain and suffering,
and ignore the needs of others,
the more spiritually lifeless we become
and the closer to spiritual death we are.
Jesus knew that by caring for others:
God would be glorified,
that many who were lost would be found,
and that he would be raised up –
not just on a cross of suffering,
but in the glory of God as well.
“What does it profit a person
to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”
There are many people in our world today
who desperately crave acceptance,
love and hope.
Do we even see them walking beside us?
Do we care enough
to help make a difference in their lives?
Jesus was a seed – like you and I.
He was a seed which did not remain dormant,
but which instead fell to the ground
giving his all
to give life to others.
Like the star thrower,
he chose to follow the law of love.
In doing so he conquered evil
and destroyed the power of sin and death.
Alone we are nothing,
but with God we become a mighty convoy,
able to endure and triumph
in bringing about the kingdom of God.
Let us close with this prayer:
O God,
may our hands not grasp to keep
what we have been given to share.
May our hearts not be devoted to earthly things;
they were first promised to you.
And may we finally come to understand
that we are called to share your glory. Amen.

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Lent I – year B – 2006

About forty years ago
on a cold March evening,
a priest was waiting for a bus.

To keep himself warm,
he had pulled his coat tight around his throat.
Just then, out of the shadows
came a man with a gun
who pointed it at him and said,
“I want your wallet.”

When the priest opened his coat
to give the man his wallet,
the robber saw the Roman collar and said,
“Oh I’m sorry Father. I won’t rob you.
I am a Catholic.”

The priest decided that maybe
he could influence the man to be good.

He began talking with him,
and as was the custom 40 years ago,
he pulled out a cigarette
and offered it to the robber.

Unbelievably,
the man said, “Oh no Father,
I gave up smoking for Lent.”

For those of us old enough to remember,
at one time fasting and giving up things for Lent
was seen as a large part of the Catholic identity.

People in the Mafia,
Robber Barons, and even hit men,
would proudly announce,
“I’m a good Catholic,
I never eat meat on Friday.”

But scripture tells us
that there is a much deeper meaning
to Lenten fasting.

There are serious things deep in our hearts
that we must fast from.

We must ask ourselves:
will we fast from resentment and revenge,
will we fast from our aggression,
will we fast from our indifference to others,
will we fast from our judgmental attitudes,
and will we fast from our selfish habits.

The word Lent is an old English word
that means “springtime”.

We can only bring about a springtime in our hearts,
by overcoming our self-centered ways.
And we can only do that with the help of prayer.

In today’s gospel
it is interesting to notice
that immediately after Jesus was baptized
with the Holy Spirit hovering over him,
he was sent out to be tested in the desert.

All of us at one time or another
end up in the wilderness.
We all go through difficult times in our lives.
Times in which our survival skills are tested.
Times in which we either prove our selves – or we don’t
and times which can make us or break us as Christians.

The wilderness experience in our lives
is just as much a part of God’s plan for us
as are the more obviously blessed times.

Living in the wilderness forges our character
and teaches us lessons
that we could not learn any other way.

In the wilderness, we find out who we really are,
and what values we truly have.
But none of us can survive long in the desert
if we do not really know who we are
or where we are going.

When life is dark and confusing,
when you can’t see familiar landmarks
a compass will guide you.

In the spiritual wilderness
to which God leads us all,
our compass is the Word of God.

Jesus had read sacred scripture in his youth.
He had accepted the leading of the Holy Spirit.
And he trusted in God his Father.

Because of this strong foundation in faith,
he was able to resist temptation,
to recall what was right,
and to refuse the lures of Satan
who tried to turn him away from God’s plan.

How strong is our foundation?
How accurate is our compass?

But even a good compass can only save our life
if we use it.

Jesus also had a survival kit in his desert.
The primary tool in his survival kit was prayer.
Prayer is something we find inside ourselves.
It is hidden deep in our hearts.
To have any value,
we must take it out of our hearts and use it.

Through prayer Jesus was able to resist giving in to Satan.
When we are in the wilderness,
it is very important to know how to pray.

Jesus practiced prayer all his life,
so when he was driven out into the desert
he was ready for all the tests that came his way.
he was ready to prove himself.

Being able to navigate successfully
in the desert of our life
gives us confidence
because it strengthens our faith.

One of the most dangerous things
that can paralyze a person is fear.

If we think we are lost and can’t find our way.
Or if we are convinced that only doom lies ahead,
we become hopelessly crippled
and unable to function.

Because Jesus knew how to handle life in his desert
because he had faith in God the Father,
because he was willing to work his way through the trials,
he was able to return from the desert
ready to now to begin his Father’s work in earnest.

Great saints have often said
that before they were inspired
to take up any great cause,
they found themselves tested in very difficult situations.
They only realized later,
that they were being prepared
to do God’s work in some special way.

The deserts of our lives are the places
where our spirit can grow and mature,
where we learn to face the world
in good times and in bad,
and from where we can emerge
stronger and more focused
ready to do God’s will in our lives.

To show just how much
God can accomplish in us
through our desert experiences,
I quote these lines by an unknown writer:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve
I was made weak that I might learn to humbly obey.

I asked God for wealth that I might do greater things
I was given infirmity
that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself
my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.

Gracious God, you led your people
through the wilderness into the promised land,
and your Son from a time of testing
to a time of glory beyond all glories.
As we start on our lenten journey
grant that our lives
may become strong in our Christian identity,
mature in our Christian values
and dedicated to building your kingdom.
This we ask through Christ your Son.
Amen.

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Job 7:1-4, & 6-7
1 Corinthians 9
Mark 1:29-39

Most of us are familiar with the story of Job. It is summed up in a children’s verse that goes:

Job, Job,
sick and sad
your friends all say
you must be bad!’

Without family or worldly possessions, racked by pain, and avoided by his friends, Job wondered why his life had taken this downward turn. Though he was steadfast and loyal, he had become impatient.

The Old Testament tradition knew nothing of life after death. The people of that time placed every circumstance of life into two distinct categories, one labeled ‘punishment’ the other labeled ‘reward’. Ancient peoples felt that God was constantly either rewarding or punishing each person.

But in today’s liturgy Mark’s gospel shows us Jesus as the person who cares about people, as the person who reaches out and touches the afflicted. His actions show us a compassionate God, who heals the broken-hearted.

The gospel story begins with Jesus and his disciples James and John going to the house of Simon and Andrew. He has barely entered when they confide to him their worry that Simon’s mother is ill. Jesus did not hesitate. He went directly to her side, took her by the hand and helped her up. She was healed and immediately she began to wait on them.

That healing action by Jesus was enough to set the town on fire, and by evening everyone who was sick or afflicted in any way was on Simon’s doorstep. The response of that town is the same as we would see today. Of all those people crowded at the door Jesus cured many.

But then Jesus disappeared. The apostles did not understand why.

This was the moment when he should have taken advantage of his popularity.

 

Yet, when the disciples found him, he was alone, praying by himself to his Father in heaven. By refusing to be merely a magician, Jesus was making the point:


physical health alone,
does not necessarily guarantee
a superior quality of life.

And does not necessarily detract from life,especially if we have a strong spiritual health.


Rather than carry on with the healing, Jesus insisted on leaving the crowds and headed off to other places to preach the Good News. He had come not to please the crowds but to obey his Father’s will.

The Good News, of course, involves transforming our spiritual lives.
Becoming the people God wants us to be, involves a certain amount of work,
dissolving old habits, and constructing new ones.

Seen in that light a ‘quick fix’ for a physical problem
seems like an easy option.


Suffering is a deep part of human existence which can be a means of estrangement from God, but can also be a means of a closer union with God

The kingdom of God becomes a reality within us when we realize that peace, joy and love are found in living trustful, open and gracious lives no matter what happens. While we can’t go away by ourselves like Jesus did. We can do something. We can at least pause momentarily during the course of our day to get in touch with our inner selves and to listen to God’s voice in our heart.

When disaster strikes on a British naval vessel, a signal called “The Still” is sounded. This signal means: Stop what you’re doing. Pause for a while. Check your situation. Prepare to do the wise thing.

Before the signal is sounded, few sailors know what is the wise thing to do. During the pause they learn what it is. “The Still” has saved thousands of British lives and millions of British dollars.

We too run into emergencies in daily life. We too, don’t know what to do immediately. Actually, the best thing we can do is pause.

Amid the turmoil of his day, Jesus took time to pause and pray. It was this inward journey that set him free and it is the same inward journey that will set us free:

free from defending or justifying
free from criticizing,
or denying
or destroying
free from the tyranny
of “me”
versus
“thee”that turns
the other person
into an object of hate.

The price of this freedom is not cheap. The path of dis-possession is so narrow
that we have to die to our belongings, die to our rebelling; and die to the demands of our pride.

At the Royal Palace of Tehran in Iran, you can see one of the most beautiful works of mosaic art in the world. The ceilings and walls flash like diamonds
with multi-sided reflections. Originally, when the palace was designed, the architect specified that huge sheets of mirrors be placed on the walls of the buildings. When the first shipment arrived from Paris, they found to their horror that the mirrors were shattered.The contractor threw them in the trash and brought the sad news to the architect.Amazingly, the architect ordered all of the broken pieces collected, then smashed them into very tiny pieces and glued them to the walls to become a mosaic, of silvery, mirrored bits of glass. That glass was broken to become beautiful!

It is possible to be better because of our brokeness.
Never underestimate God’s power
to repair and restore.


When in life there seems to be an endless battle going on all around, and when we are even distressed in mind and body, feeling alone and defeated, Jesus says:


“Come to me,
all of you who are weary,
and I will give you rest.”

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