4th Sunday of Lent, Year – A

4th Sunday of Lent, Year – A

1Sam 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Eph 5:8-19; John 9:1-41

Sherlock Holmes, the great detective who had solved many mysteries, and Dr. Watson, his companion, went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. “Watson, look up and tell me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars”. Sherlock Holmes then said, “Well Watson, what does that tell you”?

Watson pondered for a minute and then replied, “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you”? Sherlock Holmes responded, “Watson you idiot, someone has stolen our tent”.

Watson had missed the most obvious. He was clever enough to notice the complexities of the stars but he missed what was plain and simple.  Today’s Gospel reading is about a whole lot of people who miss the point. In Jesus’ healing of a blind man, the Pharisees missed the most evident point that it was a real miracle by divine intervention.

This is the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Traditionally, this day is known as “Laetare” Sunday, from the Latin word for the command “rejoice.” Today’s readings both remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body as well as in soul, and instructs  us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness.

By describing the anointing of David as the second king of Israel, the first reading, from the book of Samuel, illustrates how blind we are in our judgments and how much we need God’s help. In the second reading, Paul reminds Christians of their new responsibility as children of light: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”

The healing of the blind man, told so dramatically in today’s Gospel, brings out the mercy and kindness of Jesus, “the light of the world.” If I am going to ask you, how many blind men are in our gospel today. I am sure that your answer would be one because there is only one identified blind person. But I would rather say that it is more than one if we go deeper with our reflection. I think there are four of them.

Someone once said to Helen Keller, “What a pity you have no sight!” Helen Keller replied, “Yes, but what a pity so many have sight but cannot see!” Sadly, there has always been physical blindness in our world. But physical blindness is not the only type of blindness that affects people, nor is it the most damaging. A far more harmful blindness is the spiritual blindness that results from sin. This spiritual blindness is evident in the lives of people who are confused or lost, often having no moral guidance.

The first group of blinds is the apostles. They are blind because they asked Jesus: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? Instead of asking the most important question: How can we help this blind man? The Jewish people believe that sickness and even more such a sickness would be a punishment for sin either pre-natal sin or sin of the embryo. Or the child born blind was punished for the sins of the parents. Jesus rejects both opinions. It is the same with us. We are surrounded with so many injustices, poverty and even exploitation and even suppression but we just say: “They are poor because they are lazy and inutile.”

The second group of blinds is his parents, relatives and neighbors. Even though they witnessed that it was Jesus who cured blind man but they refused to say it. It is because of their fear of being expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees. They are afraid to say that this man was cured by Jesus Himself whom this blind man considered as the prophet. They are like those Catholics who don’t have backbones. Their personal interests, cowardice and fear blind them.

The third group of blinds is the Pharisees. They refuse to acknowledge that Jesus had performed the miracle of restoring sight to the blind man. They suspended their belief because of their prejudices and biases against Him. Instead they call Jesus as a sinner because He violated the law of the Sabbath. So, they are blind to the truth already in their eyes.

The fourth blind is blind man himself who was cured by Jesus because of his faith and trust in Him. Though he was blind physically, he could see with his heart. The other three could see with their eyes but not with their hearts as fear, cowardice, prejudices, biases and their own selfish interests blinded them.

If we are these four types of blinds, we can have two different kinds of blindness: physical blindness as represented by the blind man himself and spiritual blindness as represented by the other three groups. Spiritual blindness could be that we could not see it with our own hearts. For instance, an old man in his 70s said: “If you are afraid to die, you are not free to live.” This could be like this.

Lenten season is a season of light that one can cure his blindness through this season. I don’t see any blind person here, but I am sure you and me are blind like the apostles, Pharisees, relatives, parents and neighbors of blind man who was cured. If we are, then, we need to recognize and ask the Lord: “Lord, I want to see.”

THE STORY is told about a sign written over a basket of apples in a nursery school canteen which read: “Do not take more than one. God is watching.” On the other counter, there was a box of chocolates with sign over it, written by a child, which read: “Take as many as you want. God is busy watching the apples!”

We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness. We all have blind-spots — in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. We often wish to remain in the dark, preferring darkness to light. Let us remember, however, that Jesus wants to heal our blind-spots. We need to ask him to remove from us the root causes of our blindness, namely, self-centeredness, greed, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits and hardness of heart. Let us pray with the Scottish Bible scholar William Barclay, “God our Father, help us see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.” Amen.

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4th Sunday of Lent, Year – A

4th Sunday of Lent, Year – A

1Sam 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Eph 5:8-19; John 9:1-41

Story: A couple who was celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary, to have a dinner with them, once invited me. While we were eating, I talked to the wife and asked her about their secret why they stayed that longer. She just told me that it’s a secret. But I was not contented with her answer. I continued asking her and told that may be they stayed longer because she was in love with her husband. She laughed. So, I asked her about her understanding of the word ‘love.’ She told me: “Love is blind that lovers cannot see.”

I asked her to explain further why love is blind. She told me that love is blind because a true love cannot be seen by our naked eyes but it can be seen through our hearts. So love cannot be from our eyes but love is from our hearts. And I nodded in agreement with her.

This is the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Traditionally, this day is known as “Laetare” Sunday, from the Latin word for the command “rejoice.” Today’s readings both remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body as well as in soul, and instructs  us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness.

By describing the anointing of David as the second king of Israel, the first reading, from the book of Samuel, illustrates how blind we are in our judgments and how much we need God’s help. In the second reading, Paul reminds Christians of their new responsibility as children of light: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”

The healing of the blind man, told so dramatically in today’s Gospel, brings out the mercy and kindness of Jesus, “the light of the world.” If I am going to ask you, how many blind men are in our gospel today. I am sure that your answer would be one because there is only one identified blind person. But I would rather say that it is more than one if we go deeper with our reflection. I think there are four of them.

Someone once said to Helen Keller, “What a pity you have no sight!” Helen Keller replied, “Yes, but what a pity so many have sight but cannot see!” Sadly, there has always been physical blindness in our world. But physical blindness is not the only type of blindness that affects people, nor is it the most damaging. A far more harmful blindness is the spiritual blindness that results from sin. This spiritual blindness is evident in the lives of people who are confused or lost, often having no moral guidance.

The first group of blinds is the apostles. They are blind because they asked Jesus: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? Instead of asking the most important question: How can we help this blind man? The Jewish people believe that sickness and even more such a sickness would be a punishment for sin either pre-natal sin or sin of the embryo. Or the child born blind was punished for the sins of the parents. Jesus rejects both opinions. It is the same with us. We are surrounded with so many injustices, poverty and even exploitation and even suppression but we just say: “They are poor because they are lazy and inutile.”

The second group of blinds is his parents, relatives and neighbors. Even though they witnessed that it was Jesus who cured blind man but they refused to say it. It is because of their fear of being expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees. They are afraid to say that this man was cured by Jesus Himself whom this blind man considered as the prophet. They are like those Catholics who don’t have backbones. Their personal interests, cowardice and fear blind them.

The third group of blinds is the Pharisees. They refuse to acknowledge that Jesus had performed the miracle of restoring sight to the blind man. They suspended their belief because of their prejudices and biases against Him. Instead they call Jesus as a sinner because He violated the law of the Sabbath. So, they are blind to the truth already in their eyes.

The fourth blind is blind man himself who was cured by Jesus because of his faith and trust in Him. Though he was blind physically, he could see with his heart. The other three could see with their eyes but not with their hearts as fear, cowardice, prejudices, biases and their own selfish interests blinded them.

If we are these four types of blinds, we can have two different kinds of blindness: physical blindness as represented by the blind man himself and spiritual blindness as represented by the other three groups. Spiritual blindness could be that we could not see it with our own hearts. For instance, an old man in his 70s said: “If you are afraid to die, you are not free to live.” This could be like this.

Lenten season is a season of light that one can cure his blindness through this season. I don’t see any blind person here, but I am sure you and me are blind like the apostles, Pharisees, relatives, parents and neighbors of blind man who was cured. If we are, then, we need to recognize and ask the Lord: “Lord, I want to see.”

THE STORY is told about a sign written over a basket of apples in a nursery school canteen which read: “Do not take more than one. God is watching.” On the other counter, there was a box of chocolates with sign over it, written by a child, which read: “Take as many as you want. God is busy watching the apples!”

Unlike physical blindness, spiritual blindness occurs when people either refuse or are unable to accept Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Unfortunately, many of us are spiritually blind without realizing it. We need to learn that in recognizing our personal sinfulness our spiritual blindness begins to be healed. Jesus brings healing from sin into our lives through his Church and the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation. When we celebrate this sacrament with the proper disposition we meet the risen Lord who heals us and gives us life. Believing is seeing. Amen.

3rd Sunday of Lent

3rd Sunday of Lent: Year – A
Ex 17:3-7; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42

A couple of Catholic young men from the North were visiting a dusty little town in the back country of West Texas. It was a hard-shell Baptist town in the Bible belt of the South: “No drinking’ and no dancing’ area”!  But these two were strangers; so they asked a cowboy where they might get a drink. “In this town,” said the cowboy, “we use whiskey only for snakebite: to wash the wound as first aid.”

Then he added slyly, “If you guys are so thirsty for whiskey, there’s only one poisonous snake in this town and that is in the zoo. So you better get a ticket to the zoo, go to the snake park, get hold of a cobra through the iron bar of its cage and give it a big hug! The zoo keeper will appear immediately with whisky.”

Any storyteller would wish to have been the author of this story (the story of the Samaritan woman); it is one of the best-loved passages in the New Testament. The way in which the woman is led from incomprehension to dawning awareness at a deeper level is splendid. The setting and the imagery (well and water) hold the story together and lead the reader, along with the Samaritan woman, to that deeper level.

The woman at the well had a mighty thirst, a thirst like that of these young guys for whiskey, a thirst so big that it led her through five husbands and who knows what else. And still she was thirsty – a thirst caused by the absence of God in her life. A meeting with Jesus gave her the living waters of friendship with Jesus and the anointing of the Spirit of God which restored her dignity and changed her life.  

The image in the second part is bread. These two images then – bread and water – hold the entire scene together. Bread and water are simple realities in themselves, but how essential! Hunger and thirst are able to command our full attention. Every reader of the story soon realizes that Jesus is speaking of a deeper hunger and thirst. The emptiness of the heart is an even more painful condition than physical hunger.

St. John tells us of the beautiful story of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. The woman draws water from the well at noon. Very unusual since this is not the best for doing this. Jesus is there sitting at the well asking water from her. And the woman reminds Him of the social norms that govern the interaction between Jesus and Samaritans (or Jews and Samaritans).

Besides, Rabbis did not talk to women in public. Thus, the Samaritan woman was surprised and even hostile when Jesus who is considered by them as a Rabbi asked from her a drink. Still, this is unusual and surprising. That is why she said: “You are a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?” But Jesus leads her to a mystery by saying: “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst…” (v.14). In other words, Jesus, together with His love, is the living water.

Hunger and thirst will bring even enemies together.  “Samaritans came to him and they asked him to stay with them.” This is just the opposite of what one would expect; Jews were not welcome in Samaria. When religions divide and make enemies of people, we can be certain that they are not seeking God but only division and enmity. The mind is expert at distinction and division; but a heart seeking God is able to overcome division.

But what is the point of Jesus’ exchange with the woman about water? Water in the arid land was scarce. Jacob’s well was located in a strategic fork of the road between Samaria and Galilee. One can live without food for several days but not without water.

Water is an absolute necessity of life. We drink it and use it for cooking and keeping clean. Water too is a source of life and growth for all living things. The kind of water which Jesus spoke about in today’s gospel was living and running water. Fresh water from a cool running stream was always preferred to the still water one might find in a pond or well.

Living water was also a symbol for the Jew of thirst for the soul for God. The water, which Jesus spoke of, symbolized the Holy Spirit and His work of recreating us in God’s image and sustaining in us the new life which comes from God. The life, which the Holy Spirit produces in us, makes us a new creation in Jesus Christ.

All over the world companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola spend millions on television ads intended to stimulate our thirst and get us to buy their product. But most people today thirst for things of greater value like justice, truth and love. They long for recognition, freedom and security, like the Samaritan woman in today’s gospel.

It is in this instance that Jesus is referring Himself as the Living Water that leads her to change herself for the better. Jesus said: “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never be thirst,” (v. 14). Since the living water is Christ Himself, we should immerse our hearts, with all the holes in them, into Him.

Let us reflect these words from St. Augustine: “…for you have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” These are the interesting details of the Process of the Transformation/Conversion of the Woman. Jesus guides the woman gradually to enlightenment. Jesus talks back and forth with this woman seven times, more than with any other person in the Gospel:

First, she started by calling him “Jew” (“outsider” for Samaritans), Second, “Sir,” Third, “give me water,” Fourth, “you are right,” Fifth, “prophet,” Sixth, eventually “Messiah” and Seventh, leading the whole village to proclaim Him as, “Savior of the world.”

Food/drink in a cupboard only mocks my hunger; it has to become mine by eating/drinking.  Faith too has to become mine. “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe,” said the other Samaritans to the woman, “for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”  We could become experts on the contents of the cupboard – and die of hunger and thirst.

We need to allow Jesus free entry into our personal lives.  A sign that God is active in our lives is His entering in to our personal, “private” lives. Jesus wants to get personal with us, especially during this Lenten season.  Jesus wants to get into our “private” lives.  We have a “private” personal life which is contrary to the will of God.  

Christ wishes to come into that “private” life, not to embarrass us, not to judge or condemn us, not to be unkind or malicious to us.  Rather, Christ comes into our “private” personal life to free us, to change us and to offer us what we really need: living water.  The living water is the Holy Spirit.  The living water is the Spirit of Jesus and his love.  

We human beings are composed of four parts: mind, body, emotions and spirit.  When we let God’s Spirit come into us and take control of our thinking, our physical activity, our emotions and our spirit, He can bring harmony to the way we live with all four parts of our humanity. We can find this living water in the Sacraments, in prayer and in the Holy Bible. Amen.

2nd Sunday of Lent

2nd Sunday of Lent Year-A
Gen.12:1-4; 2 Tim.1:8-10; Matt.17:1-9

A little boy was riding with his father from New Mexico to Colorado on a fishing trip. The trip covered 250 miles, a good five hours of driving – not counting rest and restaurant stops. After about thirty miles the excited son asked his father if they were almost there. The father answered that they had a quite a ways to go.

Fifty miles later: “Now are we almost there?” asked the boy. “No,” said his father, “Not yet.” Another fifty miles later: “We must be just about there, right, Daddy?” “No,” said his father, “not yet. We have about another hundred miles to go.” Fifty miles later, the lad inquired: “Daddy, am I still going to be four years old when we get there?”

This is my introduction to the Abraham story found in today’s first reading. (Today I am not preaching on the Gospel). This old man, from whom three faiths derive – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, was a nomad, a wanderer. Not, as you know, by choice; he was summoned suddenly from his comfortable life and old, familiar neighborhood.

He was asked to leave his friends, along with everything he knew and cherished, and told to set out for the unknown, for a land he knew nothing about or how to get there or what dangers might await him on the way – and there were many. He had no MapQuest or GPS, only God’s word and God’s promise. He must have asked many times, “Are we not there yet?”

But Abraham is not the only one who is on journey not of his own choosing. Like Abraham, all of us are called again and again to leave the safe and familiar, the sound and the sane, to venture into territories unknown, uncharted and unsure. (Like Jesus telling the Apostles that they have to go down the mountain).

It starts early. As infants, we are called to leave the safety of the womb to be born into an often unfriendly world. Sooner or later we leave the cozy cocoon of home for the first day of school – remember that? Then we leave the comfortable routine of school for our first job; then we leave our mother and father, brothers and sisters, to cling to a spouse and begin a family of our own; then we leave our home town to move to where the work is, perhaps many times.  

Then one day – it comes so soon! – We leave work for retirement. And then, somewhere along the line, we leave our own home for a senior citizen village or a convalescent home or hospice care; finally we leave the relative security of this world for one we do not know.

It seems that’s what life is about: we we’re always on an adventure, on a journey, whether we want to be or not. We are forever leaving and arriving, arriving and leaving. Life does not stand still. In the depths of our being, we are all nomads, all Abrahams and Sarahs, all wanderers for a time on the journey of life. With all these arrivals departures in life, the nomadic Abraham and Sarah are offered as our models for lent, and for two reasons.

First, they travelled trusting that God would sustain them. Second, they took time out along the way to entertain angels – that is, to do good deeds – and as a result, they grew in faith along the way. Let me remind you that Lent is precisely the time to look into our spiritual lives and see if we have grown in faith along the way.

It is time to pause and ask life’s profound questions: what does my life journey look like so far? Am I where I should be at this stage of my life? Am I making progress as a human being, as a saint? Have I entertained angels? And, dare we ask it: Am I holier now than I was at this time last year? Have I grown spiritually, or have I simply grown physically older but not better, or more gentle, or more forgiving, or more compassionate?

Let me tell you about a woman named Rose who captivated her fellow students from the very first day of college. Why because Rose, like Abraham and Sarah, was old, eighty-seven years old to be precise! When asked, “Why are you in college at such an age?” She said, “I always dreamed of having a college education, and now I’m getting one!” Eventually Rose became a campus icon who easily made friends wherever she went.

At the end of the semester, Rose was so popular that she was invited to speak at the football banquet. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three-by-five note cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for lent, and this whisky is killing me!”

After the laughter died down, she said, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing,” and “You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.” Then, most impressively, she said, “There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by finding the opportunity in change. Growing older is mandatory; growing up is optional.”  

Good wisdom. And it sounds like a fine Lenten theme, doesn’t it? Like Abraham and Sarah, Rose has reminded us that we are growing older with each tick of the clock. That, alas, is mandatory. The real challenge is whether we are growing up spiritually; that is optional.

If you want to put in terms of our story at the beginning, like the little boy, we ask, “Earthly daddy, will we still be four years old – or forty years old – or eighty years old – when we get there?” The answer, in terms of years, is “yes, of course.” Age is mandatory. If answered as Heavenly Daddy, Abba, Father – will we be spiritually grown up when we get there?” The answer, in terms of the spirit, is “It all depends.” Growth is optional. Lent is a time to exercise our options.

So our faith is a journey, a journey of joy, a journey that demands sacrifice, and a journey that leads to glory. Faith demands that we make that joyful journey from sacrifice to glory. (And that is what Jesus said to the disciples; let us go down the mountain). It demands that we separate ourselves from our own selfish desires in order to give to others.

This is the path to glory for a Christian. And it is a path full of joy. We Christians are happy because, like the disciples on the mountain of the transfiguration, we have experienced a touch of heaven, the joy of the Lord, the happiness that is to come. Faith is not just something we profess. Faith is a life that we lead. It is a life of joy, a life of sacrifice, and a life leading us to the Glory of God. Amen.
 
 

First Sunday of Lent -Year: A

First Sunday of Lent -Year: A

                                                                               Gen. 2:7-9; 16-18, 25, 3:1-7; Rom. 5:12-19; Mt. 4:1-11

A very overweight man decided that it was time to shed a few pounds. He went on a new diet and took it seriously. He even changed his usual driving route to the office in order to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he arrived at the office carrying a large, sugar-coated coffee cake. His office mates roundly chided him, but he only smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, “What could I do? This is a very special cake.

This morning, out of my forced habit, I accidentally drove by my favorite bakery. There in the window were trays of the most delicious goodies. I felt that it was no accident that I happened to pass by, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you really want me to have one of these delicious coffee cakes, let me find a parking place in front of the bakery.’ Sure enough, on the ninth trip around the block, there it was!”

Temptation is strong, but we must be stronger. We should not tempt fate and we should not rationalize our actions. Lent is a time to ask oneself a number of questions. Where is my life really leading me? Is the hope of eternal life my aspiration? Have I tried to grow in the life of the Spirit through prayer, reading the Word of God and meditating on it, receiving the Sacraments, self-denial?

 Have I been anxious to control my vices, my bad inclinations and passions, e.g., envy, love of food and drink? Have I been proud and boastful, thinking myself better in the sight of God and despising others as less important than myself? By persevering in fasting, penances and prayers, the faithful obtain the strength that they need to overcome their sinful tendencies.

The first reading, taken from the book of Genesis describes the “Original Temptation” – “You will be like gods, knowing what is good and what is evil.” Adam and Eve were given the possibility of making a choice to live for God, dependent upon and obedient to His will, or to say no to God. The temptation to evil led Adam and Eve to an act of faithlessness and sin. Like Adam and Eve, we are all tempted to put ourselves in God’s place. Consequently, we resent every limit on our freedom, and we don’t want to be held responsible for the consequences of our choices.

The second reading St. Paul describes how the disobedience of Adam who fell to Satan’s Original Temptation brought him and us death and a broken relationship with God. Paul reminds us of the social consequences of sin. Sin is never a private affair, affecting only myself. When we sin, all our relationships are affected: our relationship with our inner self, our relationships with our brothers and sisters, our relationship with our God and our relationship with nature and the world in which we live.

Paul says that just as sin and death came through Adam, salvation and life come through Christ.  Christ regained for us the right relationship with God that Paul calls justification, which comes to us as undeserved grace.

Today’s Gospel teaches us how the “desert experience” of fasting, praying, and soul-strengthening was a kind of spiritual “training camp” for Jesus which enabled him to confront his temptations successfully and then to preach the Good News of salvation.  The Gospel also prescribes a dual action plan for Lent:

We should confront our temptations and conquer them as Jesus did, by fasting, prayer and the Word of God. We should renew our lives by true repentance and live the Good News of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to find out what he was made of Mark’s gospel puts it more strongly: “the Spirit drove him out into the desert” (1:12). The first temptation was “to turn these stones into loaves of bread.” A hungry man sees bread everywhere. A Hindu poet who used to write beautiful poems about the moon lost all his talent when he became impoverished. He saw nothing but chapatti (thortiyas) whenever he looked at the moon.

Jesus was hungry, but he saw beyond his own hunger; he would become a provider of food for the hungry. (A good man is not tempted by evil but by goodness.)  Soon however he saw that this was not exactly what God was asking of him. The second temptation was to fame. Many false prophets had attempted to attract notice by doing spectacular feats. Jesus countered this by saying, equivalently, “One doesn’t play games with God.”

The third temptation was power.  As a Jew he knew what power did to people; every day of his life he saw the Roman Empire at work. He knew that Roman emperors were ‘deified’- proclaimed gods – after their death; to Jews, who had a profound sense of the unity of God, this practice was an abomination.

Jesus rejected all these possibilities.  The gospel text doesn’t tell us at that point what he chose to do, but the rest of his life made it plain.  He chose the way of love, which is deep, unspectacular, and powerless.

The three temptations – turn stones into bread, jump off the Temple pinnacle, worship Satan – demonstrate three kinds of control: material, spiritual and civil. They correspond to three wrong evaluations: 1) those who have material resources are blessed by God; 2) those who have spiritual powers are blessed by God; 3) those who have national power are blessed by God.

These, in turn, correspond to three human-divine bargains: 1) I will worship You if you make me rich; 2) I will worship You if You endow me with magical powers; and 3) I will worship You if You give me political power.

There is a story about a bird that saw a cat carrying a can of worms. The worm made the bird’s mouth water, so he asked the cat how much each worm cost. The cat said that it was very cheap, only a feather per worm. So the bird plucked one feather and gave it to the cat. A little later, he again craved for a worm, so he plucked another feather and bought another worm. His cravings were not satisfied, so he kept on buying worms with his feathers. He never realized that he was losing his feathers, and when he saw the cat about prey on him, he could not fly away to escape that cat anymore.

The point is clear that temptation is a fact of life. It is everywhere. Nobody is really strong in the face of temptation. We know that the first humans failed the test. Like monkeys and flies we are lured by the scent of the sweet. It whispers to us, “It’s ok, don’t worry!” “Try it just once. It’s not that bad anyway.” “Come on, everybody is doing it.” “Nobody will know.”

Temptation is tasty because it is always sugar-coated with a promise of pleasure. But we must be careful and vigilant to check where it is leading us, lest we suffer what happened to the bird in our story. Amen.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday (Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18)
FAST FROM …AND FEAST ON….

Lent once again reminds us of the three traditional means to make us holy: Prayer,Fasting, and almsgiving. We wish our prayers to be heard.

St.Augustine says: “If you wish your prayer to fly to God, give two wings: fasting, almsgiving.”

Giving up and taking up are the two aspects of our Lenten discipline.

If we are giving up something for Lent, it is our sins that we have to give up. Remember that ‘sin’ means to ‘miss the mark’ or goal of how we should be living. Take up more prayer and almsgiving.

St.Madeleine Sophie Barat says, “The more we have denied ourselves during the day, the nearer we are each evening to the heart of our Lord.”

Ash Wednesday is a day of decision. Whatever we decide to give up during Lent, we are doing it to reform our lives. If giving up has no appeal because it sounds too much like a diet, ‘take up’ instead.

Giving up, fasting or taking up can teach us self-discipline. So it is a start. Although we long to perform grand and magnificent acts of love, may we still take all the tiny opportunities for love that each day brings.

Pray… Fast… Give: The true meaning of prayer, fasting and almsgiving:

Prayer: The Lenten season calls us to pray. But prayer, Jesus teaches, is much more than saying words. “Go into your room, and close the door and pray to your Father in secret.”
Before you pray, enter the inner room of your heart. Shut the door to the noise, the trivialities, the countless cares competing for attention. Put them aside. In the quite place of your heart, with faith as your guide, speak to your God. A gracious Father listens, and he knows what you need.

More time given to prayer during Lent should draw us closer to the Lord. We might pray especially for the grace to live out our baptismal promises more fully.

Fasting: “When you fast do not look gloomy”, says Jesus. Today’s consumer society looks on fasting itself as gloomy. Urging everyone to eat, drink and buy more and more, our world today has made fasting unfashionable.

Yet the gospel message says too much of material wealth can distract us from what is truly essential. An acquisitive spirit is a selfish spirit. In our acquisitive, pleasure-oriented society, fasting is a way of keeping ourselves free. This Lent, recognizing the hold things have on us, let us try, with God’s help, to keep them in their right place.

Some reasonable abstaining from food, drink and entertainments can help us to do that.
Fasting should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures those who are in need for any reason.

Thus fasting, too, is linked to living out our baptismal promises. By our baptism, we are charged with the responsibility of showing Christ’s love to the world, especially to those in need.

Almsgiving: Giving alms, Jesus teaches, means making the needs of others our own, especially the needy of our world. They are all around us: children and the old, sick and the suffering, families and individuals, next-door neighbors and people in lands far away.

And what shall we give? Perhaps, we can give some of our time, talent, and material resources. Almsgiving is not just for the rich. Poor or rich, we shall have something to give. Whatever we give, though, should be something of ourselves, something that costs us.

Are Fasting and abstinence the only ways of doing penance?

There are a thousand ways, besides fast and abstinence, of doing penance:-

To fulfill one’s own duties well. To follow the rules where we live.

To accept with patience the difficulties of one’s own life / family life.

To bear sickness for God’s love.

To bear patiently with people who cause us harm and so on.

While we fast from certain things, it is time to feast on other things. I suggest the following:
 
Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling in others.

Fast on emphasis on differences;   Feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from words that pollute; Feast on words that purify.

Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger; Feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.

Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.

Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.

Fast from idle gossip; Feast on the purposeful silence.

How can you expect to breathe in, if you refuse to breathe out? Breathing is a kind of giving and receiving.

Story: Some friends who went deer-hunting separated into pairs for the day. That night one hunter returned alone, staggering under the weight of a big deer. “Where’s Harry?” asked another hunter. “Oh, he fainted a couple of miles up on the trail,” Harry’s partner answered. “And you left him lying there all alone and carried the deer back?” “A tough call,” said the hunter, “but I figure no one’s going to steal Harry.”  Which is more valuable, Harry or the deer?

LENT can be described as “Let’s Eliminate Negative Thoughts.” Of course, Lent is a time to positively think about our lives.

Let us discern and choose the right path and course of action at the right time.Amen.