The Annunciation of the Lord
Isa 7:10-14;8:10 + Heb 10:4-10 + Lk 1:26-38
March 25, 2019
… the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel….
In the person of Jesus Christ, God and man are united. This is the good news that Saint Gabriel came to announce to Mary: that she would bear in her womb the one through whom all human beings could find eternal life. The profundity of this news overwhelmed Mary, and made her fearful. What would this mean for her life?
Throughout the world and throughout history, human beings have sought to find meaning in their lives in many ways. Similarly, human beings have always searched for love in their lives. We know that there are many different things which people in the world call love, but Jesus Christ and the Church He established upon this earth clearly teach us that there is only one real type of love. It is that love which over many years would lead Mary to Calvary. Only this real love is strong enough to destroy death.
If Mary had understood the fullness of her vocation, she would likely have feared the annunciation of Saint Gabriel even more than she did. Both the Annunciation and its consummation on Calvary are sacred events which call us to consider how God expects us to accept the Holy Spirit in humble submission to the will of God. Mary is the greatest disciple of Our Lord. Beyond her questions she says “Fiat”: “let it be done unto me according to your word”. She accepts the fullness of the Holy Spirit and bears the Body of Christ. She is the model for us who strive faithfully to say, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”
Those who have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and have had them strengthened in Confirmation turn to Mary, asking her intercession during their journey towards Calvary, and asking for perseverance to pray beneath the Cross. As each of us shares in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, may we be transformed in mind and heart, in order to bear the real love of Christ in the world: in the midst of those around us who are seeking God more deeply in their lives, or who do not yet know Him.
Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Daniel 3:25,34-43 + Matthew 18:21-35
March 26, 2019
“So will your heavenly father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
The Church, in which we share in the Body of Christ, is our truest home. By right, we should feel most at home in church, because it is there that we celebrate the source of all forgiveness. At the altar, the Church celebrates the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. When the priest speaks in the name of Christ, speaking those words that Christ spoke at the Last Supper, we leave our normal home in time and space and are taken into that home where forgiveness was first given by the God-man. We are transported into the presence of Christ’s eternal sacrifice: the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the Sacrifice which is the reason we can be forgiven.
But in our home within the Church, we find not only forgiveness. In the Church, when we share in the Eucharist we are giving thanks not only for the forgiveness wrought by Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. We also give thanks for the fact that when we share fully in this sacrament, we receive not only a share in Christ’s forgiveness. We receive a share in the life of Christ himself. We receive not only the Forgiver’s forgiveness; we receive the Forgiver.
To receive forgiveness is to be restored to our former self. But to receive the Forgiver means not simply that we’re restored to our former self, but that we’re raised from our state of sinfulness to a share in the life of the Forgiver’s Self. We share in the life of Christ, and so are given the power to forgive others as Christ offers forgiveness: to all persons, in all circumstances, for ever.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9 + Matthew 5:17-19
March 27, 2019
“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”
Within today’s scriptures there is a tension between divine revelation and the human will. In the First Reading, Moses declares, on the one hand, that divine revelation is given to us by God and must be accepted as is. On the other hand, Moses advises the people to take care not to forget what they have seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. Neither the Revelation of God which comes from Him nor our human experience of God is unimportant.
But for us who aspire to serve faithfully as His disciples, Jesus, as a faith-filled Jew, declares in today’s Gospel passage that everything we need to know has already been revealed. At times if we feel bored, it is because we are tired and have stopped to rest, while the world has moved on. If we feel that every day we are staring into the same old face of existence—that the world has ground to a halt—then it is surely we who have stopped moving.
When we follow God’s commands, we are not only like little children who are obeying their Father’s Word. The commandments and other forms of God’s divine revelation are also a source of wisdom for us, offering insight into the mysteries of human life. Whether we understand God’s ways completely or not, when we follow God’s commands, we become more like Him who gave them to us, because what God is describing in giving us His commandments is a description of Himself. He is always faithful to those with whom He has made a covenant. He is always merciful to those who call upon His Holy Name.
Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
Jeremiah 7:23-28 + Luke 11:14-23
March 28, 2019
“… whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Unity is one of the four marks of the Church. When we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we profess that the Church that Jesus founded is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Today’s Gospel passage speaks about the general sense of unity in an intriguing way, yet also in a way that we can apply to the life of the Church.
Jesus’ words today are intriguing because He directly contrasts His own followers and those who follow Satan. Jesus rhetorically asks: “if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” If you’ve ever pondered the course of salvation history, you might have puzzled over why God has given to Satan such great reign over mankind. Why does God allow Satan to exist at all, much less to have such sway over human lives and human history?
We may not know until the end of time all the reasons for God’s providential allowance of evil within this world. Nonetheless, Satan and his legions are divided, for it’s in the very nature of evil and those who serve evil to be self-centered and incapable of working towards unity in any lasting manner. God is one, and those who serve God and sacrifice themselves for His holy will will become, by His grace, united to Him.
Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Hosea 14:2-10 + Mark 12:28-34
March 29, 2019
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
When the scribe challenges Jesus to identify the prime commandment of God, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy the prayer known as the Shema. This prayer, which is as important to Jews as the “Our Father” is to Christians, commands you when you pray it to “love the Lord your God with all your heart … soul … mind, and … strength.” Consider this strength that Jesus is directing our attention towards.
Have you ever had the experience of praying to God for the strength—or the wisdom or perseverance—to accomplish some specific goal, only to hear silence from God in response? “Where is God?” we ask. “Why isn’t God here for me?” If you ever feel like God’s not here for you, and that He’s standing remote and silent over there, at a distance, you might reflect on that distance between here and there. Ask yourself, and then ask God, if maybe He’s wanting you to move from here to there. Maybe where you are, isn’t where God wants you to be.
Relating that to the biblical virtue of strength, we have to get it through our heads that God is not going to give us the strength to accomplish a goal that He has no interest in us reaching. It’s not as if we set the goals, and God gives us whatever we need to reach our goals. If our goals are not God’s goals, we shouldn’t be surprised when we call on God, and hear silence on the other end of the line.
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Hosea 6:1-6 + Luke 18:9-14
March 30, 2019
“… for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled….”
Jesus cautions us in this morning’s Gospel passage. Even as we pray to God, our words of thanks can easily turn in on ourselves. The Pharisee did not give thanks to God for the gifts God have given him. The Pharisee did not give thanks to God for the good that the Pharisee had been able to do for others. The Pharisee gave thanks for himself, because in his own eyes he was “not like the rest of men.”
In the person of the tax collector, Jesus is teaching us of the primacy that humility plays in the spiritual life. Before the tax collector can give thanks, he knows he must first beat his breast and ask pardon from God. Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector realizes that he is just like “the rest of men”. In humility he pleads God for mercy.
Through this parable, Jesus is teaching us a basic lesson about the spiritual life. In his own person, however, he teaches us something even more important. Jesus himself was not at first “like the rest of men”. Rather, “for us men and for our salvation / he came down from heaven: / by the power of the Holy Spirit / he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” Before he came down from heaven he was true God; after the Annunciation, He was both true God and true man.
Before we give God thanks for our salvation, we plead to Him for mercy. But before we plead to God for mercy, we give Him thanks for having sent His sent to become human, to show us how to be humble.