February 19, 2015

God holds nothing back

Second Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 1 (Genesis 2:1-2, 9-13, 15-18; Psalm 116; Romans 8:21b-35, 36; Mark 9:2-10)

Published in Fr. Scott Lewis

ROME - Lent is a journey of purification and penance, a movement that should bring one tearfully back to the loving arms of the merciful Father, Pope Francis said at an Ash Wednesday Mass that began with a procession on Rome's Aventine Hill.

Published in Vatican

Sacred Journey: Daily Reflections for Lent 2015. By Krystyna Higgins. (Novalis. 49 pages. $2.50).
40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent. By Marcellino D’Ambrosio. (Servant Books, an imprint of Franciscan Media. 127 pages. $14.99). Sacred Silence: Daily Meditations for Lent. By Phyllis Zagano. (Franciscan Media. 132 pages. $9.99).

Lent is upon us and it’s time to make some room for change. This year, will Lent pass us by as little more than 40 days of good intentions or will it become a life-changing journey? These three books remind us that it’s not enough to give up chocolate or some other vice — although sacrifice does have its place. Authors Krystyna Higgins, Marcellino D’Ambrosio and Phyllis Zagano remind us each in their own way that Lent is about renewing our spiritual commitment to Christ and hopefully going deeper and maturing in our relationship with Him.

Published in Book News

This is a good weekend to be a Catholic goat. Less so for Muslim and Jewish goats. Let us explain.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - People must continue to recognize the sacrifice of the Allied soldiers who liberated Europe from "Nazi barbarism," but also should not forget the German soldiers "dragged into this drama," Pope Francis said.

Published in International

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Oct. 21 (Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45)

Suffering is the world’s oldest and greatest mystery. Philosophers and theologians of all varieties have made attempts to explain it with limited success. Anything that sounds too glib or that serves some particular ideology should be viewed with great suspicion and caution.

Isaiah and his nameless prophetic colleagues had their work cut out for them. They had to explain to the people of Israel why their nation had been destroyed and the people exiled in Babylon. The bigger part of that question was why God — with whom they presumably had a special relationship — had allowed it to happen. Sin, idolatry and laxity in matters of the law provided an answer to the first part of the question. But they also insisted that God had a plan and continued to work for the restoration of the people and nation even in Babylonian exile. The suffering that they had experienced was for cleansing and renewal. There would have to be a collective conversion of minds and hearts and a commitment to follow the ways of God carefully and zealously.

There was a problem — a fair number of the exiles were not only resigned to their fate but were quite comfortable and content in Babylon since they did not suffer any significant degree of cruelty or oppression. The prophets worked overtime to rouse the exiled community and reignite the fire of devotion to Israel’s God. They may have been persecuted by their own for their troubles for the suffering servant figure appears as an anonymous exile who suffered greatly for his teachings and prophetic efforts. The important part of the prophecy was the assurance that the suffering was temporary and that the vision of light — a restored Israel — gave strength and courage to the servant. Things of lasting and noble value are worth suffering for and we have the witnesses of countless saints, visionaries, reformers and other leaders who have given their comfort and even their lives for the sake of others. Suffering is never good for its own sake but only when it has purpose and meaning.

Redemptive suffering was most clearly demonstrated in the life of Jesus. His exalted status and His ability to be our advocate and guide was based firmly on His life of sacrifice. Jesus “paid His dues” by becoming human with all of its limitations and being tested in every way. He experienced pain, loneliness, grief, betrayal, fatigue and disappointment. By standing firm in His obedience to the Father and practising unceasing love He rose above temptations and became our compassionate high priest.

Our culture, as well as our economic and political systems, thrive on promising people something for nothing. No taxes, instant weight loss without dieting and exercise and fabulous rates of interest on investments at no risk are fine examples of this mentality. Success without sacrifice is an illusion, and James and John fell for it. They were enamored with the power that Jesus seemed to wield as well as His talk of the kingdom of God. Visions of glory and fancy titles probably filled their heads as they anticipated basking in the Lord’s glory.

The two ambitious apostles approached Jesus and made a request that probably disappointed Him deeply — they wanted the places of honour at the right and left of Jesus in His state of glory. They clearly had not understood His teachings. He pointed out that status in God’s kingdom means being least in the human realm. The exaltation of Jesus was a consequence of His being willing to give His life as a ransom for many. Jesus went on to inform them that He was not in a position to hand out places of honour for it was entirely up to God. They had to be willing to follow in His footsteps with only love as motivation, even to the cross itself.

James and John were just a little too quick in their insistence that they were able to embrace the baptism of suffering that Jesus was about to endure and even then Jesus did not promise them glory. Perhaps they should have added, “With the grace of God.” True spiritual advancement only occurs when we are willing to let go of self-interest, notions of honour and status and selfish ego. Voluntary “downward mobility” is the path to the Kingdom of God.

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