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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 11, 2018
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Psalm 137; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21

The readings today help us take a look at mercy’s central place among God’s gifts to us. We hear about it in Chronicles when God sent his messengers “early and often” to his people to give them compassion, but compassion was seen as weakness and was rejected. As people likewise rejected God, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and the Israelites were carted off to Babylon as refugees, but the nice part of the story is that God’s mercy was always offered to the people.

For those in the Babylonian exile, mercy came through the ascension of King Cyrus of Persia to the throne. Babylon was defeated, and he decreed that he will build the Lord a house in Jerusalem of Judah. Anyone who is an Israelite may go up to Jerusalem to rebuild their community. The people who lamented the loss of their way of life could reclaim their customs. A people who were punished for their choices could now worship their God in freedom.

In Ephesians, St. Paul assures us that God is rich in mercy, which is the value by which God saves us from our sins. Salvation is a gift of God to anyone who believe in Christ, who was obedient to God through his faith. Christ gave us a counter-cultural manner of living, in which mercy is a central value. Therefore, it ought to be a defining characteristic of our actions.

The Gospel also punctuates the theme of God’s gift of mercy to us. God pure love for the world’s people was enough for Him to send his only Son so that people could believe in him and have eternal life. God, moved out of compassion and affection for us, keeps giving us every possible chance to get it right.

God’s mercy is inexhaustible. Because of the way Jesus lived, we too have an opportunity to let compassion and mercy define our lives. Last week, Jesus walked into the Temple and destroyed its wayward forces. By doing so, he thrashed the gods of wealth, might, power, status, possessions, rules, and divisiveness, so that he could return the Temple to God’s values. No more does self-importance, self-righteousness, and egotism have a claim on religious life. Jesus defeated those cultural values, so he could rebuild the Temple in mercy, grace, and compassion. In the end, even the powerful of the world, after living dissolute lives, want to receive mercy and compassion for their waywardness.

John’s Gospel reminds us that Christ is our light and we are to move in the direction of the light. The Evangelist says that sometime people prefer the darkness because it is familiar and comfortable. I also think that some do not think they are worthy of being in the light in light of some of their life’s choices. However, from our readings and from life experience, God will continue to offer us mercy so that we live in the light. It is attainable for everyone, even the most hard-hearted person we know. Mercy is the path out of lament and devastation. Mercy can rebuild the Temple of our lives and make it pure because of God’s unconditional love. It is something we need to accept and then follow where Christ’s light will bring us. It always leads to reconciliation, to restoration, to rejuvenation, and to resurrection. Why not follow that light?

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading:
Monday: (Isaiah 65) The Lord is about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered; there will always be rejoicing and happiness.
Tuesday: (Ezekiel 47) The angel brought the prophet to the entrance of the temple where life-giving water flowed forth and bringing life to all.
Wednesday: (Isaiah 49) The Lord finds favor with Israel and promises help on the day of salvation. The Lord will help Israel keep the commandments because He cannot forget her beauty.
Thursday: (2 Samuel 7) The Lord said to David: Your house shall endure forever; your throne shall stand firm forever. 
Friday: (Wisdom 2) The wicked said, “Let us beset the just one because he is obnoxious to us. Let us revile him and condemn him to a shameful death.”
Saturday: (Jeremiah 11) Jeremiah knew their plot, but like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized they were hatching plots against him.  

Monday: (John 4) Jesus returned to Galilee where he performed his first miracle. Some believed in him. A royal official approached him as his child lay dying, but at the hour Jesus spoke to him, his son recovered.
Tuesday: (John 5) Jesus encountered an ill man lying next to a healing pool, but when the water is stirred up, no one is around to put him in. Jesus heals him and he walks away. The Jews protest that Jesus cured on the Sabbath. The Jews began to persecute Jesus.
Wednesday: (John 5) Jesus explains that he is the unique revealer of God and cannot do anything on his own. He judges as he hears and his judgment is just because he does not seek his own will.
Thursday: (Matthew 1) The birth of Jesus came about through Mary, betrothed to Joseph. In his dream, the angel tells Joseph to take the pregnant Mary as his wife.
Friday: (John 7) Jesus did not wish to travel around Judea because the Jews were trying to kill him, but he went up during the feast of Tabernacles where he was spotted. He cried up in the streets, “You know me and you know where I am from.”
Saturday: (John 7) Some in the crowd said, “This is the prophet.” Some said, “This is the Christ.” A division occurred because of him because they could not settled how he fit into Scripture. Nicodemus interjected, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” The crowd dispersed to their homes.

Saints of the Week

March 17: Patrick, bishop (389-461), is the revered Apostle of Ireland and patron saint of many U.S. dioceses. He is credited for bringing the faith to all of Ireland. He was abducted and enslaved at age 16 by pirates and taken to Ireland where he worked as a cattle herded and shepherd in the mountains. He escaped after six years and eventually returned to his native Britain where he became a priest. Pope Celestine sent Patrick as a missionary to Ireland to evangelize them. Though he was under constant risk from hostile pagans, he converted many of them and developed a native clergy by the time of his death.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Mar 11, 1848. In Naples, Italy, during the 1848 revolution, 114 Jesuits, after much suffering, were put into carts and driven ignominiously out of the city and the kingdom.
·      Mar 12, 1622. Pope Gregory XV canonized Sts Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri.
·      Mar 13, 1568. John Segura and five companions set sail from Spain for Florida, a fertile field of martyrs. (Nine Jesuits were killed there between 1566 and 1571.)
·      Mar 14, 1535. Ignatius received his degree from the University of Paris.
·      Mar 15, 1632. The death of Diego Ruiz, a great theologian, who studied on his knees.
·      Mar 16, 1649. The martyrdom in Canada of St John de Brebeuf, apostle to the Huron Indians. Captured by the Iroquois along with some Christian Hurons, he endured horrible tortures.
·      Mar 17, 1964. The death of Joseph O’Callaghan. He was awarded the US Medal of Honor for heroism as chaplain on the USS Franklin, off Japan on March 19, 1945.

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