Greetings in Christ,
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus explains to us in human terms the immeasurable love of the Father. He tells the parable of the Prodigal Son, beginning “A man has two sons . . . “. The focus of the Gospel message here is the father’s love, not the behavior of the sons.
It looks like the father fails here, but the father is not an irresponsible parent. He is consumed with love for his sons. This kind of love does not always show itself as a life guided by acceptable expectations. The two sons have gone haywire, exhibiting two bad, opposite viewpoints. We can see how the father accommodates each one of them openly, drawing them back to himself at all costs, without any conditions. This is the kind of immense love our Father in heaven has for each one of us. Whatever sinful situation we have been through, the heavenly Father continues pouring out his love for us. Jesus testifies how great is God the Father’s love, and how powerful it is in making us new persons.
Please be guided by our Lenten schedule of spiritual activities. Let us walk together with Christ.
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
LENT 3rd SUNDAY: Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15; I Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk 13:1-9
Central theme All three of today’s readings speak of God’s mercy and compassion in disciplining His children by occasional punishment while giving them another chance despite their repeated sins. Although God’s love for us is constant and consistent, He will not save us without our co-operation. That is why He invites us during Lent to repent of our sins and to renew our lives by producing fruits of love, compassion, forgiveness, and faithful service.
Scripture lessons: The first reading tells us how God shows His mercy to His chosen people by giving them: Moses as their leader and liberator. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (v. 6) reveals Himself to Moses from the burning bush and assures Moses of His Divine presence with His people and of His awareness of their sufferings in Egypt. He declares His intention to use Moses as the leader who will rescue His enslaved people. Then God reveals His name as Yahweh (“I AM Who AM”) and renews His promise to the patriarchs (v. 8), to give them a “land flowing with milk and honey.” Our Responsorial Psalm, (Ps 103) reminds us of God’s unfailing mercy: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” The second reading warns us that our merciful God is also a disciplining God. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth that they must learn from the sad experience of the Israelites who were punished for their sins by a merciful but just God. The merciful and gracious God is also just and demanding, and hence they must be free from sexual sins and idolatry. Today’s Gospel explains how God disciplines His people, invites them to repent of their sins, to renew their lives, and to produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Citing two tragic events, Jesus exhorts the Jews to repent and reform their lives. With the parable of the barren fig tree, Jesus also warns them that the merciful God will not put up with them indefinitely. Although God patiently waits for sinners to repent, giving them grace to do so, He will not wait forever. Time may run out; therefore, timely repentance is necessary. Hence, one can say, “A Lent missed is a year lost from the spiritual life.”
Joy of being forgiven: In his memoirs, Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation, humbly and frankly acknowledges that, when he was fifteen, he stole a little piece of gold from his brother. A few days later, he felt very guilty and decided to come clean by confessing to his father. So, he took a paper, wrote down his fault, sincerely asked his father for forgiveness and promised never to repeat the offence. Taking that note to the bedroom of his father, the young Gandhi found him ill in bed. Very timidly he handed the note to his father without saying a word. His father sat up in bed and began reading the note. As he read it, the senior Gandhi was so deeply moved by the honesty, sincerity and courage of his son that tears began to stream from his eyes. This so touched the son that he burst into tears as well. Instinctively both father and son wrapped their arms around each other and wordlessly shared their mutual admiration and joy. This notable experience made such an impact on Gandhi that years later he would say, “Only the person who has experienced this kind of forgiving love can know what it is.” – This precisely is what happened when the repentant prodigal son returned home. Such is God’s merciful forgiveness and benevolent love for all who resolutely turn over a new leaf, especially during this Lenten season.
Life Messages: 1) We need to live lives of repentance, because (a) we never know when we will meet a tragedy of our own. Let us turn to Christ, acknowledge our faults and failings and receive from him mercy, forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. There is no better way to take these words of Jesus to heart than to go to sacramental confession, and there is no better time to go to confession than during Lent. (b) repentance helps us in life and in death. It helps us to live as forgiven people and helps us to face death without fear.
2) We need to be fruitful trees in God’s orchard. Lent is an ideal time “to dig around and manure” the tree of our life so that it may bring forth fruits of repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sensitivity to the feelings of others.
3) We need to make the best use of the “second chances” God gives us. Our merciful Father always gives us second chances. During Lent, too, we are given another chance to repent and return to our Heavenly Father’s love.
Greetings in Christ,
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus calls for urgency for his message of repentance. The place is here, and the time is right now! There is no time to waste for God is timeless; we are the ones delaying. Postponing causes us to perish from the grace of the moment, before our Lord’s eyes of love for us. This is the consequence of unrepentance because of the already broken union with God, caused by sin. The forgiveness that Jesus brings restores the lost relationship of love and union with God – both in Spirit and in Life.
This Lenten time presents opportunities for us to avail ourselves of the abundance of God’s graces, which he pours out into our hearts. Our immediate response must be to receive God, his message and his overflowing graces. Prompt openness is the kind of faithful response Jesus longs for from us, without any rationalizations.
Once again, thank you for all your cooperation with the Planning Study surveys!
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is metamorphosis or transformation. The readings invite us to work with the Holy Spirit to transform our lives by renewing them during Lent so that they radiate the glory and grace of the transfigured Lord to all around us by our Spirit-filled lives.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading describes the transformation of a pagan patriarch into a believer in the one God, the transformation of his name from Abram to Abraham, and the first covenant of God with Abraham’s family as a reward for Abraham’s obedience to God. In the second reading, St. Paul argues that it is not observance of the Mosaic Law and circumcision that transforms people into Christians, and hence, that Gentiles need not become Jews to become Christians. In the Transfiguration account in today’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed as a glorious figure, superior to Moses and Elijah. The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to allow Him to consult his Heavenly Father to ascertain His plan for His Son’s suffering, death and Resurrection. The secondary aim was to make his chosen disciples aware of his Divine glory, so that they might discard their worldly ambitions and dreams of a conquering political Messiah and might be strengthened in their time of trial. On the mountain, Jesus is identified by the Heavenly Voice as the Son of God. Thus, the Transfiguration experience is a Christophany, that is, a manifestation or revelation of Who Jesus really is. Describing Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Gospel gives us a glimpse of the Heavenly glory awaiting those who do God’s will by putting their trusting Faith in Him.
At the transfiguration Peter offered to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Jesus said, “And what about you, Peter?” And Peter replies, “Don’t worry about me Lord, I got a better place in Jaffa.”
Life messages: (1) The “transfiguration” in the Holy Mass is the source of our strength: In each Holy Mass, the bread and wine we offer on the altar become “transfigured” or transformed (transubstantiation) into the living Body and Blood of the crucified, risen, and glorified Jesus. Just as Jesus’ Transfiguration was meant to strengthen the apostles in their time of trial, each holy Mass should be our source of Heavenly strength against temptations, and for our Lenten renewal.
(2) Each time we receive one of the Sacraments, we are transformed: For example, Baptism transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us temples of the Holy Spirit and warriors of God. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness.
(3) The Transfiguration of Jesus offers us a message of encouragement and hope: In moments of doubt and during our dark moments of despair and hopelessness, the thought of our own transfiguration in Heaven will help us to reach out to God and to listen to His consoling words: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased — listen to Him!” and so share the glory of His transfiguration.
4) We need “mountain-top experiences” in our lives: We share the mountain-top experience of Peter, James and John when we spend extra time in prayer during Lent. Fasting for one day can help the body to store up spiritual energy. This spiritual energy can help us have thoughts that are far higher and nobler than our usual mundane thinking
The transfiguration of Jesus reveals the end which has not yet arrived – the crucifixion. Through human defeat on the cross is revealed the mystery of the power of God. This event symbolizes Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, where he will be crucified. The sacred voice emerging from the cloud tells in unambiguous words who Jesus really is – the chosen Son of God. All are to listen to him. This divine revelation puts these three men into total silence. There is nothing more to say as Peter, James and John stand overwhelmed by this powerful experience of God.
While meditating on the events of the transfiguration, it is good to recall events in our lives when we experience God with-us. This can be our own Baptism into Christ, or anytime we receive one of the Sacraments. When touched strongly by God’s mysterious presence, we become speechless. God’s gracious love and presence in us inspires deep contemplation. This happens as we receive Holy Communion; Jesus intensifies his union within our hearts. Our souls encounter Jesus’ transformative love.
I wish also to thank all of you for your participation in our parish Planning Study survey.
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
LENT 1 [C] (3/10/2019): Dt: 26:4-10, Rom 10:8-13, Lk 4:1-13
Lent begins with a reflection on the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The Church assigns temptation stories to the beginning of Lent because temptations come to everybody, not only to Jesus, and we seem almost genetically programmed to yield to them. Scripture lessons: The first reading describes the ancient Jewish ritual of presenting the first fruits and gifts to God during the harvest festival in order to thank Him for liberating His people from Egypt and for strengthening them during the years of their trials and temptations in the desert. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 91), points to Satan’s third temptation of Jesus in the desert as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. In the second reading, St. Paul warns the early Christians converted from Judaism not to yield to their constant temptation to return to the observances of the Mosaic Laws. He reminds them that they will be saved only by acknowledging the risen Jesus as Lord and Savior. The graphic temptations of Jesus described by Matthew and Luke in their Gospels are pictorial and dramatic representations of the inner struggle against a temptation that Jesus experienced throughout his public life. The devil was trying to prevent Jesus from accomplishing his mission of saving mankind from the bondage of sin, mainly through a temptation to become the political Messiah of Jewish expectations, and to use his Divine power first for his own convenience and then to avoid suffering and death.
Satan or God? A priest was ministering to a man on his deathbed. “Renounce Satan!” said the priest.” No,” said the dying man. “I say, renounce the devil and his works!” “No,” the man repeats. “And why not, I ask you in the name of all that is holy?” “Because,” said the dying man, “I want to wait until I see where I’m heading, before I start annoying anybody.”
Life Messages: 1) We need to confront and conquer temptations: Like Jesus, every one of us is tempted to seek sinful pleasures, easy wealth and a position of authority, and is drawn to the use of unjust or sinful means to attain good ends. Jesus sets a model for conquering temptations through prayer, penance and the effective use of the ‘‘word of God.” Temptations make us true warriors of God by strengthening our minds and hearts. We are never tempted beyond the strength God gives us. In his first letter, St. John assures us: “The One Who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Hence during Lent, let us confront our evil tendencies with prayer (especially by participating in the Holy Mass), with penance and with the meditative reading of the Bible. Knowledge of the Bible prepares us for the moment of temptation by enabling us “to know Jesus more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly, day by day,” as William Barclay puts it.
2) We need to grow in holiness during Lent by prayer, reconciliation and sharing. We become resistant and even immune to temptations as we grow healthier in soul by following the traditional Lenten practices: a) by finding time to be with God every day of Lent, speaking to Him and listening to Him; b) by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives by uniting ourselves with God both by the Sacrament of Reconciliation and by forgiving those who have hurt us and asking forgiveness of those whom we have hurt; and c) by sharing our love with others through our selfless and humble service, our almsgiving and our helping of those in need.
The following schedule might help you to practice and lead a life befitting the Lent.
Make effort to attend the Stations of the cross on all Fridays of Lent and Good Confession during the Lent.
First Week I will . . . spend some time reading the Gospels or the Psalms. Especially Ps. 51
Second Week I will . . . fast from foods, unhealthy for body and soul.
Third Week I will . . . volunteer at a soup kitchen, thrift shop, or day care center, or some of your time for others.
Fourth Week I will . . . learn a few lines of Scripture by heart. (in memory)
Fifth Week I will . . . give clothes, money, or possessions to the poor.
Sixth Week I will . . . participate in Holy Week liturgies.
I would like to thank everyone who has participated in our church planning study. The response is strong, but we hope to receive input from everyone in our community. Completing the survey will take just a few minutes.
The deadline to return your completed survey is Tuesday, March 12. You may return your survey to the office or place it in the offertory basket at any of the Masses.
You may also complete the survey online by going to steiergroup.com/survey, clicking on Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church and entering the password: hf2018.
Again, thank you for your feedback and for participating in this important effort.
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
Introduction: Ash Wednesday (dies cinerum) is the Church’s Yom Kippur or the “Day of Atonement.” Its very name comes from the Jewish practice of doing penance wearing “sackcloth and ashes.” The Old Testament tells us how the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5), King Ben Hadad of Syria (1 Kg 20:31-34), and Queen Esther (4:16) fasted wearing sackcloth and ashes. In the early Church, Christians who had committed serious sins were instructed to do public penance wearing sackcloth and ashes. The Church instructs us to observe Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as days of full fast and abstinence. Fasting is prescribed to reinforce our penitential prayer during the Lenten season. The prophet Joel, in the first reading, insists that we should experience a complete conversion of heart and not simply regret for our sins. In Psalm 51, our Responsorial Psalm today, the Psalmist acknowledges his sin and begs God for His Mercy. Saint Paul, in the second reading, advises us “to become reconciled to God.” Today’s Gospel instructs us to assimilate the true spirit of fasting and prayer.
The blessing of the ashes and the significance of the day: The priest dipping his thumb into ashes (collected from burnt palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday), marks the forehead of each with the sign of the cross, saying the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” By marking the sign of the cross with ashes on the foreheads of her children, the Church reminds us a) that our bodies will become dust when buried and ashes if cremated, and b) that our life-span is very brief and unpredictable; 2- a strong warning that we will be eternally punished if we do not repent of our sins, become reconciled with God, asking His pardon and forgiveness, and do penance; and 3- a loving invitation to realize and acknowledge our sinful condition, return to our loving and forgiving God with true repentance as the prodigal son did and ask Him for the renewal of our life.
Ash Wednesday messages:
# 1: We need to purify and renew our lives during the period of Lent by repentance, which means expressing sorrow for sins by turning away from occasions of sins and returning to God. We need to express our repentance by being reconciled with God daily, by asking for forgiveness from those whom we have offended and by giving unconditional forgiveness to those who have offended us.
# 2: We need to do prayerful fasting and little acts of penance for our sins and share our blessings generously with others, following the example of 40 days of fasting and prayer by Jesus before his public ministry. Fasting reduces our “spiritual obesity” or the excessive accumulation of “fat” in our soul in the form of evil tendencies, evil habits and evil addictions. It also gives us additional moral and spiritual strength and encourages us to share our blessings with the needy.
Our parish-wide planning study ends soon, but you still have time to participate.
The deadline to return your completed survey is Tuesday, March 12. Please return it to the parish office. If you wish to take the survey on line, please visit steiergroup.com/survey, click on Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church and enter the password hf2018.
Thank you to everyone who’s completed a survey or took time to visit with our consultant for an interview. I appreciate your feedback and for participating in this important effort.
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
March 3 Sir 27:4-7; Ps 92:2-3; 13-16; I Cor 15:54-58; Lk 6:39-45 (L/19)
Central theme: Jesus draws our attention to practical points of Christian living and challenges us to use our words as he used his in his preaching and healing ministry — to heal, to restore, and to bring back life, joy and hope. Today’s readings also instruct us to share our Christian life, love, and spiritual health by our words, and to avoid gossiping about, and passing rash, thoughtless and pain-inflicting judgments on others, thus damaging their good reputation and causing them irreparable harm.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, Book of Sirach, teaches that what is inside us is revealed through our conversation – as the grain and husks are separated in a farmer’s sieve, as the quality of the metal is revealed in the potter’s fire, and as the size and quality of a tree’s fruit reveal the care it has received from the planter. Sirach’s teaching serves as an excellent preview for today’s Gospel, which reminds us, when we’re feeling judgmental, to think before we speak because what comes out of our mouth reveals our heart. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 92) advises us to spend our time praising and thanking God for all His blessings. In the second reading St. Paul advises the Corinthian Christians “to be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” instead of wasting time on useless and sinful conversations, which bring punishment instead of the victory of resurrection and eternal reward. In today’s Gospel passage, “the Sermon on the Plain given in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus condemns our careless, malicious and rash judgments about the behavior, feelings, motives or actions of others by using the funny examples of one blind man leading another blind man and one man with a log stuck in his eye, trying to remove a tiny speck from another’s eye.
Valuables in safe custody: In his little book, Illustrations of Bible Truth, H.A. Ironside points out the folly of judging others. He relates an incident in the life of Bishop Potter. “He was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners. When he went on board, he found that another passenger was to share the cabin with him. After going to see the accommodations, he came up to the purser’s desk and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship’s safe. He explained that ordinarily he never availed himself of that privilege, but he had been to his cabin and had met the man who was to occupy the other berth. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be a very trustworthy person. The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables and remarked, ’It’s all right, Bishop, I’ll be very glad to take care of them for you. The other man has been up here and left his valuables for the same reason!’” (Daily Bread). This is what happens when we make rash judgments
Life messages: We should avoid judging others because 1) No one except God is good enough to judge others because only God sees the whole truth, and only He can read the human heart. Hence, only He has the ability, right and authority to judge us. 2) We do not see all the facts or circumstances or the power of the temptation which has led a person to do something evil. 3) We are often prejudiced in our judgment of others, and total fairness cannot be expected from us, especially when we are judging those near or dear to us. 4) We have no right to judge because we have the same faults as the one, we are judging and often in a greater degree (remember Jesus’ funny example of a man with a log in his eye trying to remove the dust particle from another’s eye?) St. Philip Neri commented, watching the misbehavior of a drunkard: “There goes Philip but for the grace of God.” Abraham Lincoln said that the only one who has the right to criticize is the one who has the heart to help. 5) Hence, we should leave all judgment to God, practice mercy and forgiveness, and pray for God’s grace to get rid of all forms of hypocrisy in our lives. Let us remember the warning of saints: “When you point one finger of accusation at another, three of your fingers point at you.”