March 14, 2017

Tuesday, Lent Week Two

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The Responsorial (Psalm 50) promises: “To the upright I will show the saving power of God.” Isaiah encourages us to add: “And also to those not upright.”

Isaiah 1: 10-20 offers forgiveness and purification to the “princes of Sodom.” When we read in Genesis 19 the sin that brought destruction on Sodom, we wonder that Isaiah can promise what he does. In the eyes of Lot, in whose culture protecting guests was sacrosanct, to have allowed the rape that the men of Sodom intended would have been worse than turning his own daughters over to them for child abuse! (19:8). But even to these rapists God says, “Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow…. If you are willing and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land.” Let’s be honest. Would we say that to a child abuser?

To priests guilty of that sin, the Church offers forgiveness; but with no possibility of ever being admitted to full priestly ministry again. That is because we learned — late, after 1980 — that no matter how much therapy is given, recidivism can never be discounted. This alerted us to another aspect of sin: one obvious but overlooked.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, after nine years on the Australian child-abuse commission, gives this overlooked aspect of sin as a possible reason why so many bishops re-assigned offenders after they repented. We were so focused on seeing sin, including child abuse, as a “direct offense against God,” that the bishops treated it as any other sexual sin: Confession and absolution marks “end of story.” But sin always also does damage to people. If we forget this, we might act as if forgiveness precludes forestalling. With our eyes only on repentance we can be blind to risk. The truth is, to forgive fully does not entail the folly of gambling on reform. If we do, it is the psychological and spiritual well-being of children that we wager. No matter what the odds, that is too much to gamble. (Robinson, op. cit. p. 203).

In Matthew 23: 1-12 Jesus tells us why we include the Liturgy of the Word in every Mass. It is to make sure we have direct exposure to the word of God.

We can never rely entirely on the second-hand exposure we get through teachers, priests and bishops. In his time Jesus said, “The scribes and Pharisees have succeeded Moses as teachers.” That is a possibility in every time. We need to obey every legitimate authority, but as disciples, not dumbbells. We should view all opinions and optional customs in the light of the word of God.

Jesus mentions some: blind applications of the law that lay “heavy burdens’ on people; ways of dressing that suggest some are more religious than others; preferential treatment and signs of special respect in gatherings; honorific titles. He alone is the teacher; the rest of us, clergy and laity alike, are all fellow-students verifying by his words what anyone claims to have heard. No one is “higher” than another. Those who want status should seek it through serving others. That is the word of God.

Initiative: Assume that there are errors in “ordinary” teaching and practice. Try to fix them.


March 13, 2017

Monday, Lent Week Two

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The Responsorial (Psalm 79) gives a key to the readings: “Lord, do not deal with us as our sins deserve.”

In the Gospel Jesus is going to tell us, “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” The reading

from Daniel 9: 4-10: reminds us how much we ourselves need the compassion Jesus instructs us to give to others.

The Book of Daniel is an example of “apocalyptic” writing, which looks ahead to the “day of the Lord” and to the consummation of history when God, the Lord of history, will ultimately vindicate his people. It was written during a bitter persecution, and its purpose was to strengthen and comfort the Jewish people in their ordeal.[1]

Daniel recognizes that troubles always have causes. Frequently they are brought on by our failures to live by the principles God teaches. Historians say the seeds of ‘World War II were planted in the harsh terms of the peace treaty that ended World War I. The scourge of Islamic terrorism today would not be possible if Moslems had no grounds for perceiving America as the society of the Great Satan because of the values we project. These are not our deepest and truest values, but to the superficial scanner, our media present us as a country of materialism, militarism, violence and sexual license. Our reaction is defensive: we pour billions into national security. Daniel’s reaction was to confess his People’s sins to God:

Ah, Lord... we have sinned and done wrong… acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments.... We have not listened to your servants, who spoke in your name.

His real message, however, is not about us. It is about God: “Yours, O Lord, are compassion and forgiveness.” Every “confession” of sin is a “profession” of faith in God’s values and love.

In Luke 6: 36-38 Jesus tells us to set all our standards by the standards God follows. “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” Then he seems to reverse himself and say that God will match his standards to ours: “for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

The truth is, God never limits his goodness to correspond to ours. When we pray, “Forgive us... as we forgive...” “as” does not mean “in the measure that,” but closer to “while.” We are anticipating the “wedding banquet of the Lamb,” when total reconciliation will reign between all people and with God.

What limits God is our refusal to open ourselves to his generosity. If we close our minds, he cannot enlighten us as he wants. If we close our hearts, he cannot love through us as he will. If we refuse to forgive, he cannot give us his peace. But never, never does he refuse to forgive when we repent, to give when we ask, or to fill us when we admit our emptiness. We already know God’s answer when we pray, “Lord, do not deal with us as our sins deserve.”

Initiative: Listen to the readings. Measure yourself by what you hear.

[1] Taken from the introduction to the Book of Daniel in the Catholic Study Bible, Oxford University, 1990, using the New American Bible texts.

  • Father David M. Knight

March 12, 2017


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How much do I think about the event of Christ’s death and resurrection? Do I consciously base my whole life on the difference that event has made?

The Entrance Antiphon asks: “Remember your mercies, Lord, your tenderness from ages past.” Do I use my memory of God’s deeds in a way that gives me confidence God “will not let our enemies triumph over us”? Do I let the Liturgy of the Word remind me of what God has done in the past?


In the Opening Prayer we are looking for understanding, and for the vision of a goal that will encourage us: “Enlighten us with your word, that we may find the way to your glory.”

Jesus is the Word made flesh. His words are “spirit and life.” In the Liturgy of the Word we hear his voice, as we hear that of the Father. The Church teaches: “In the sacred books the Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them. And the force and power in the word of God is so great that it remains the support and energy of the Church.” But to receive that power and support we have to listen to God’s words. And so we ask God, “Help us to hear your Son.” [1]

God’s answer will be to show us Jesus, to let us see his glory so that when we lose sight of it we will remember, continue to listen to his words and follow his way.

God’s intervention:

The Responsorial (Psalm 33) asks, “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” To “have mercy” is to come to the aid of another out of a sense of relationship. And relationship is the result of interaction. It is on the basis of God’s interaction with us that we say we: “place our trust in you.”

Genesis 12: 1-4 tells us that it all began with the event of God’s intervening in history to form a special relationship with one man — Abraham — and his descendants. This relationship was a covenant that committed God to take an active, guiding role in human history.[2] “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great.”

This is the act of mercy — of God’s entering into a special relationship with Abraham’s race — that is the first foundation of our trust. God’s promise to Abraham was realized in Jesus, in whom all those who become members of his body, the Church, are “sons and daughters in the Son,” children of God and children of Abraham. In Christ the promise is fulfilled: “All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”

Revealed in Jesus:

2Timothy 1: 8-10 tells us that the full favor (grace) of the plan God began to implement through Abraham was “made manifest through the appearance of our Savior,” Jesus Christ. Through the Good News of his life, death and resurrection Jesus “has brought life and immortality into clear light.” And he “has called us to a holy life.”

We know through the Gospel that this “holy life” is actually divine life. Through Baptism we were incorporated into the body of Jesus on the cross, into the event of his dying and rising. We died to our merely natural, human lives and rose to live as sharers in the divine life of Jesus. Our glory is to “be Christ.” And his glory is to be visibly, manifestly alive and risen in us. St. Irenaeus wrote: “Life in humans is the glory of God.” The proof of Christ’s resurrection and triumph is his divine life present and shining out unmistakably in those he has redeemed.

To live authentically as Christians we need to have some idea of the glory Jesus has in himself, and of how that glory should appear in us who are his body on earth. To understand what that glory is and should be, the Liturgy of the Word invites to reflect deeply on the Scriptures. That is why we prayed in the Opening Prayer, “Enlighten us with your word, that we may find the way to your glory.”

A vision of his glory:

In Matthew 17: 1-9 Jesus took three of his disciples — the same three he would take with him later in his agony in the garden — and led them up to the top of a mountain, where he was “transfigured before their eyes.” Something of the glory he had as God appeared visibly in his body — but only a very little bit, because they were still able to speak.

When Peter suggested, however, that they should put Jesus on a par with Moses and Elijah, who embodied the Law and the Prophets, by building shrines to the three of them, the Father made it clear that Jesus was not on a par with anyone: he was infinitely superior to every human prophet or saint, no matter how great. “This,” the Father declared, “is my beloved Son.” And he spoke from within the shekinah, a cloud both opaque and luminous, a Scriptural sign of God’s presence. The Father added: “Listen to him!”

We keep getting the same message. If we really want confidence that God “will not let our enemies triumph over us” we need to listen to his Son. If we want a motivating goal for our life, we need to take seriously Christ’s glory and ours, and keep striving to enter into it through deeper understanding and love.

We do this by reflecting on the words of God that show us his glory revealed in the Word made flesh. Jesus is not just an exemplary human being: he is God himself showing us how God would and did live in human flesh.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets. But in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son... through whom he also created the worlds.

He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being....

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

The glory revealed in Jesus is the glory God wants to reveal in us as his divine-human body on earth.

In the Transfiguration God gave us a glimpse of Jesus in his divine glory so that we would be encouraged to interact with him in his humanity: learning from his words and example how to live as humans who are divine; how to live on the level of God.

We learn this by interacting with Jesus as disciples: reading his words, asking questions, talking to him. But it has to be “hands on” learning. We don’t know what Jesus is talking about until we try to actually do what he says. We don’t know we are hearing his voice until we respond to his inspirations. We don’t experience ourselves as his body until we begin working with him for the establishment of God’s reign on earth, asking him to act with us, in us and through us in everything we do.

The starting point, however, and key to doing this well, is listening to him. We first have to become disciples, students dedicated to learning from him. For this we pray: “Lord, help us to hear your Son.”

Insight: By what standard do I measure my behavior? By human standards or God’s? By “right or wrong” (i.e. “reasonable”) or by “faith-inspired”? By what I see others around me doing, or by what I hear Jesus saying we should do?

Initiative: Spend some time thinking about Jesus’ glory. How do you, will you share in it?

[1] John 6:63; Vatican II, “Liturgy,” no. 33.

[2] God’s covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:9) was only a pledge not to destroy the human race. All who survived the flood are Noah’s descendants. But Abram and his family were a particular clan, the descendants of Noah’s son Shem (Genesis 10:1; 11: 10, 26).