Monthly Archives: February 2021

March 1st-7: 2nd week of Lent

MARCH 1 Mon Lenten Weekday.  Dn 9:4b-10/Lk 6:36-38 

2 Tue Lenten Weekday  Is 1:10, 16-20/Mt 23:1-12 

3 Wed Lenten Weekday [USA: Saint Katharine Drexel] Jer 18:18-20/Mt 20:17-28

4 Thu Lenten Weekday [Saint Casimir] Jer 17:5-10/Lk 16:19-31

5 Fri Lenten Weekday Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a/Mt 21:33-43, 45-46

6 Sat Lenten Weekday Mi 7:14-15, 18-20/Lk 15:1-3, 11-32 

7 SUN THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT Ex 20:1-17 or 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17/1 Cor 1:22-25/Jn 2:13-25 or, for Year A, Ex 17:3-7/Rom 5:1-2, 5-8/Jn 4:5-42 or 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Jesus proclaims the mercy of God and calls us to care for the poor in Luke’s Gospel, read Monday, Thursday and Saturday of this week, The story of the Prodigal Son, read on Saturday, is Luke’s great parable of God’s mercy. 

Matthew’s Gospel for Wednesday reminds us that temptations about power, so obvious in the story of Jesus’ temptations, also occur in his disciples, like James and John. Can we see it too in the elder brother from the Parable of the Prodigal Son?

Readings from cycle A can be substituted for the reading cycle of the year, especially when a community is preparing new members for Baptism. The gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Lent in cycle A is the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, a key story for Lenten catechesis. Cycle A is also a good source for the catechesis of children.

Saint Katharine Drexel, remembered March 3rd, followed Jesus’ teaching in her care for the poor Native and Black people of the United States. She put her family wealth at their service.

Though they’re optional in Lent, as readings from scripture are emphasized, celebrations of the saints are important because they remind us that the gospel takes form in generations after the time of Jesus. Katherine Drexel is a witness to its place in 19th century America. St. Casimir is a witness to its spread to Poland and Lithuania in the 16th century.

Love like the Sun

Fra Angelico, Detail of the Crucifixion (ca.1437-46)

First Week of Lent, Saturday

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus’ description of the Father’s impartial love takes its inspiration from the sun and the rain— natural phenomena devoid of passion, and blind to merits and demerits. Divine love energizes all living beings regardless of their response to their Creator. Even the “enemies” of God exist because he continually sustains them in being. 

In the light of Christ’s merciful words on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), it becomes clear that his clashes with the scribes, Pharisees, and priests were manifestations of divine love. No malediction ever issued from his lips.

Do I not hate, Lord, those who hate you?
Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?
With fierce hatred I hate them,
enemies I count as my own.

Psalm 139:21-22

Jesus, the Son of David, knew and prayed the “cursing” Psalms in the Hebrew tradition, but showed by his life the ultimate end of the psalmist’s prayer. Christ drove all curses into himself on the Cross, assumed blame for human sin, and expired with benediction on his lips. 

The second Adam reversed the finger-pointing of the first couple in the garden of Eden who blamed the serpent, the woman, and ultimately God. Jesus, though blameless and innocent, assumed the punishment of the lawbreaker and transformed culpability into love. 

Pure, disinterested love desires the good of others without distinction, seeing all persons as one in Christ. St. Maximos the Confessor writes:

The one who is perfect in love and has reached the summit of dispassion knows no distinction between his own and another’s, between faithful and unfaithful, between slave and freeman, or indeed between male and female. Having risen above the tyranny of the passions and looking to the one nature of man, he regards all equally and is equally disposed toward all. For him there is “neither Greek nor Jew, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free man, but Christ is everything in everything” (Gal 3:28).1

Sunrise and sunset,
Showers and snow
Fructify seedbed
Of friend and foe.

Both just and unjust
Are rolled from clay—
Divinely-breathed dust—
Pearl of God’s play.

God sees all children
As his own Son,
Victims and villains
On the Cross won.

-GMC

1 St. Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love II.30.

2nd Sunday of Lent:

For this week’s homily, please watch the video below.

Fr Rick Frechette is a Passionist, a priest and a physician, who has spent most of his priesthood  in developing countries.

He was born in 1953 in Connecticut, joined he Passionists as a novice in 1974, was ordained in 1979, and received a Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine in 1998.

The movement he started in Haiti to both  improve the lives of the very poor and empower them with leadership, is under the patronage of St Luke, evangelist and physician.

For more information, see StLukeHaiti.org

St. Gabriel Possenti, CP

gabriel

St. Gabriel Possenti, whose feastday is today, was born on March 1, 1838, the 11th child of Agnes and Sante Possenti, governor of Assisi, Italy. Gabriel was baptized Francis after that city’s famous patron. He had everything a privileged child could hope for.

In 1841, the Possentis moved to Spoleto and Gabriel fell under the spell of that city’s bright social world. Spoleto was influenced by the Enlightenment, a movement that preferred what’s new to what’s old.

Lively, headstrong, intelligent, he was educated by the Christian Brothers and the Jesuits. Popular, usually head of his class, he embraced the city’s latest fashions, plays, dances and sporting events. Gabriel was charmed by it all.

Yet, something else kept calling him. A year after moving to Spoleto his mother Agnes died. Her death and the death of two brothers and three sisters made him think seriously about life. A couple of times he almost died himself. He heard Jesus calling him to give up everything and follow him, but then the call seemed to fade away.

In the spring of 1856, a fierce cholera epidemic struck Spoleto and Gabriel’s favorite sister died in the plague. Overwhelmed by the tragedy, the people of the city processed through the streets with an ancient image of Mary, praying that she intercede to stop the plague and help them bear their heavy cross.

It was a transforming experience for Gabriel, who was drawn into the presence of Mary, the Sorrowful Mother. Passing the familiar mansions where he partied many nights, the theater and opera that entertained him so often, he realized what little wisdom they offered now. He took his place at Mary’s side and at her urging joined the Passionist Congregation.

In a letter home, Gabriel described his new life as a Passionist to his father: “ I would not trade even fifteen minutes here for a year or any amount of time filled with shows and other pastimes of Spoleto. Indeed my life is filled with happiness.”

Gabriel died on February 27, 1862 and was canonized in 1920. He’s a saint for young people looking for the pearl of great price, but sometimes in the wrong place. May St. Gabriel help them find it in the right place. Interested in becoming a Passionist?

Lord God,

you hide your gifts “ from the learned and clever,

but reveal them to the merest children.”

Show your love to the young of today,

and call them to follow you.

Give them the grace you gave St.Gabriel,

grace to know you as good.

grace to judge life wisely,

grace to be joyful of heart.

Amen

Saturday, 1st Week of Lent: Loving Enemies

Lent 1

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have heard that it was said,

You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.

But I say to you, love your enemies,

and pray for those who persecute you,

that you may be children of your heavenly Father,

for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,

and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5: 43-48) 

When people talk about love today, usually they’re focused on romantic love, “falling in love”, or loving yourself. Not much talk about loving others or loving your enemies today.

 “Love your enemies”, Jesus says in today’s gospel. Have a love that imitates God’s love,  our heavenly Father “who makes his sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

Is that love beyond us?

We’ve been told from earliest years that there are some people you can’t trust; they’ll take advantage of you; they’ll harm you. You have enemies in this world. Be careful.

Certainly Jesus doesn’t condemn reasonable caution. He had enemies too and he was careful what he said and how he dealt with them. Evil exists. Rather, Jesus warns against  a pessimism that leads us to condemn someone or some groups absolutely. We see no possible goodness or possible change in them, only intractable evil.

We don’t see as God sees when we think like that. The sun of God’s goodness shines on this world; the rain of his mercy softens its hardest places. His love changes people for the good.

We can’t just reason our way to a love of enemies, we must pray to grow in this love.  Jesus not only taught us, but showed us by his own example how to love our enemies. Look at him in his Passion, says St. Aelred:

“Listen to his wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity – Father, forgive them.  Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?
 
  Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgement; therefore, Father, forgive them.
 
They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; therefore, Father, forgive them.
 
They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognise my glory; therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
 

Teach us, Lord, a love like yours,
that never gives up or draw limits,
or settles for those in its small circle.
Help us to love like the sun and the rain
that reach everywhere.

Sacred Space of the Heart

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican)

First Week of Lent, Friday

Matthew 5:20-26

I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. ’But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:20-24

As temples of the Holy Spirit, humans have a God-shaped heart. Thoughts and words that kill shrivel the heart and turn sacred space into a Gehenna. 

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

Heaven is not above
Nor is hell below.
The heart’s demon or dove
Harrows or hallows.

-GMC

Friday, 1st Week of Lent: Anger and Prayer

Lent 1


Readings

Our readings this week are about prayer, not so much the words of prayer–Jesus warned about prayer being just words– but about attitudes that make prayer possible.

The gift of prayer is always ours, like rain and snow it comes down from heaven, but then there’s the ground it falls on.

In yesterday’s first reading, Queen Esther and her servants “ lay prostrate on the ground, from morning until evening” praying for deliverance from their enemies. Their prayer is similar to Jesus who prayed prostrate on the ground in Gethsemane. They’re fearful, without resources, humbled, but they do not settle for being humbled, they reach out to the One who can help. Humility leads them to pray.

Esther gets more than she asks for– an immediate, surprising victory over her enemies. Jesus is also heard– after he drinks the cup of suffering– with resurrection. Humility leads to prayer.

Today’s reading looks at anger and its relationship to prayer.  

God gets no pleasure from the death of the wicked, Ezekiel says in our first reading, but God rejoices when someone ‘turns from his evil way that he may live,” God is not an angry God, looking to punish. God looks for reconciliation. (Ezekiel 18:21-28)

Jesus also looks for reconciliation, the gospel reminds us, and he sees it as a condition for prayer.

“If you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.

A reconciling person lives respectfully in this world. “Respect” is a wonderful word. It means “to look again” in Latin, to look again at someone to see a value we’ve denied or missed in them. It also means looking again at the world around us, or the family we live in. We can give up hope; we can lose our appreciation of them. Be reconciled, be ready “to look again” Jesus says, or you can miss the gift God gives at the altar.

The anger Jesus condemns in the gospel is that definitive anger that “kills” another, that condemns forever.

The sign of peace we offer at Mass is a sign of God’s call for reconciliation.

Respect is a form of love, St. Paul of the Cross writes, “love toward your neighbor, putting up with the faults of others, looking at all with charity and compassion, having a good opinion of everyone and a bad opinion only of yourself. A simple eye lets you see your neighbor as full of virtues and yourself full of vices, but without discouragement, peacefully, humbly.” (Letter 525)

Lord,
let me look again at those I judge,
let me see them again as you do,
with mercy and forgiveness.
Make me an instrument of your peace,
bringing life and hope to others, not death