Archive for February, 2012
Every one in Nineveh from the King down donned sackcloth and ashes and did penance. God saw their efforts to make amends, relented and forgave them.
Jonah must have been a powerful preacher seeing he got them all to acknowledge their wickedness and do penance. However, he was furious with God for forgiving them. He said to God, “Didn’t I say that would happen – that you are a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger and abounding in love.” But God told Jonah he felt sorry for the poor Ninevites.
What wonderful rapport between God and his prophets!! The story of Jonah is a very hunourous one and worth reading this Lent. It’s the shortest book in the Old Testament.
Lent is a time for us to do penance for our sins. St. John reminds us that God sent his Son into the world that we might be saved. God never wills the death of the sinner. He wants us all to repent and turn back to Him. Scripture tells us there is great rejoicing in Heaven when one sinner does penance.
God is calling us this Lent to follow Him and come close to Him. As followers of Christ, we are called to be evangelists and to spread the Good News of God’s loving mercy to all whose lives touch ours.
It is an exceptional privilege that Ireland happens to be hosting the International Eucharistic Congress in this the Golden Jubilee of the event worldwide. The First Eucharistic Congress in Ireland took place 80 years ago (1932) – 15 hundred years from the arrival of St. Patrick.
A popular programme on T.V. is called ‘Reeling in the Years.’ This might be an appropriate time to review some of the major events which changed the face of Ireland since 1932. What has been Ireland’s story over the past 80 years? Legend has it that St. Patrick overthrew the pagan idol of Crom Cruach when he brought Christianity to our people. Where is Crom Cruach operating today? Greed, violence, neglect of the poor, evidence of injustice… From the many ways in which Christianity is being challenged and ignored we may well ask: Has Ireland lost her soul? Or to adapt a Gospel question: When the Son of Man comes will he find any faith in Ireland? (Luke 18:8)
However, we must not be discouraged or disheartened. As the poet Tennyson wrote: “God fulfils Himself in many ways.” It was when the Israelites were at a dead end, with the sea in front and the Egyptian army in pursuit that God opened up a way for them leading them to safety and new life.
The century that has just ended was one long series of wars and much destruction. We had dictators like Hitler and Stalin. We had genocide and death camps.
The present century alas seems intent on going down the same road of wars and destruction. The faith of many people is growing weak. Our culture is being de-Christianised.
Jesus met with evil and sin in his time on earth. He was tempted by the devils, attacked by the religious leaders of his day and put to death by the political leaders, the representatives of the Roman Empire. Only by serving God alone in imitation of Jesus will we succeed in conquering evil. Christ told his Apostles some evil spirits are only cast out by prayer and fasting.
Lent is a time to do some penance. Perhaps we could share our bread with the hungry. In these days of recession, many go hungry. Perhaps, we could contribute a little to charities that cater for the needy.
Lent also calls us to prayer and reflection. Through prayer, we come closer to God and come to know him better. God always hears our prayers and responds generously. “On the day I called, you answered, O Lord.” (Psalm 138)
As was mentioned in yesterday’s reflection the Kingdom of God is already here. We rejoice and are glad to be members of God’s Kingdom – a Kingdom that is never ending. The cosmic Christ is here with us – proclaiming the good News to all who will listen.
New life is everywhere. The birds are building their nests, the lambs skip joyfully in the fields. All nature is awake proclaiming God’s wonderful, magical presence among us. The world around us is holy because God is present in it and God is holy.
All he wants is our happiness. Perhaps we are busy looking for happiness elsewhere. But we won’t find it. As the Psalms says “Only in God is my soul at rest. My happiness lies in Him alone.”
St. Augustine says: “Our hearts are restless: And they’ll never rest until they rest in God.” When we love God we love our neighbour. Also, for each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God.
We can always fnd God in our neighbour. Whatever we do to our neighbour we are doing to God. Christ said “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.” We don’t have to go looking for God. He is within us. He is in our neighbour. He is in our world. No one can ever find a place where God isn’t present. That is the message of the Incarnation, the joyous message of a loving God, who loves his people with an ever lasting love.
Jesus was eager to commence his mission which was to establish the reign of God on earth. Immediately after his Baptism by John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan, the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus and drove him into the desert with great urgency. There, he was tempted by evil spirits. Emerging victoriously from this struggle with the powers of darkness, Christ ushered in the reign of God on earth.
The Messiah is here at last. The Kingdom of God is close at hand. That’s the Good News of the Gospel. Repent and believe it.
After long centuries of waiting, the prayer of Isaiah is finally answered. “Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down.” (Is. 64 : 1) Now the time has come, Christ is here making all things new. No putting new patches on old garments or new wine into old wine skins. If we do all is lost. No longer will we adhere to old rules and regulations which placed intolerable burdens on people.
Although Jesus was victorious in the war he waged with the devil, our struggle is a continuous on-going daily effort. Last Wednesday when the blessed ashes was put on our foreheads, we were told to repent and believe the good news of the Gospel.
Lent is a good time to take stock of our lives to see if anything is drawing us away from God. Through prayer and reflection, we will be strengthened in our efforts to live by the Gospel message. We are never alone in our struggle. A loving God, a heavenly Father is watching over us. No matter what mess we have made of our lives, God is always there for us. As St. Paul says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts. 17 : 28)
First Levi leaves his customs post but not everything. He can still afford to prepare a great banquet, perhaps a farewell one in his house. We know that he made a final break with his previous life. The Pharisees consider the Jewish teachers, the tax collectors and sinners as unclean, and associating with them would render them unfit for religious services.
On the contrary, Jesus has come precisely to serve them. They are the sick and sinners he must minister to and bring to repentance. Jesus renders a serious break with the preactice of the self righteous Pharisees. He answers the sick call of sinners, the Pharisees included and exhorts them to repent and change.
It is common among the prophets to use the image of a wedding feast to describe the wonderful joys of the coming of the Messiah. God is the bridegroom and the whole of Israel, the bride, while the disciples are the wedding. Fasting as a way of preparing for the coming of this Kingdom is therefore inappropriate. The Pharisees still continue to fast because they have not yet recognised the Messiah in the person of Jesus. They have been deprived of the Messianic joy. This joy will turn into sorrow when Jesus is persecuted. The bridegroom will be taken away, mourning follows and with it, fasting as an expression of deep sorrow.
Why did God allow the death of His Son on the Cross as the path we too must take to reach salvation. In the Cross the crucified loses everything, his clothes, his prestige, his dignity, his life and in some cases even his faith and hopes. No wonder then that for the Jews, the man who dies on the Cross is considered cursed by God. It is the path to total ignominy of the human self. Thus God wills it. The self which is rebellious in him is totally annihilated. What remains of it lies before our life giving God. The seed of the Resurrection, therefore is already present in the Crucifixion. When one loses his life for Christ’s sake, it will be saved.
It is understandable that people will wonder how a dead man with a speech impediment can now listen to and converse with them. People await the coming of the Promised Messiah, and they believe that he will be a wonderful figure who will unite the nation, and drive out the pagan invaders. This is what Jesus avoids. Undue publicity will tempt the people to set him up as that Messianic figure. This could upset Jesus’ real mission. Therefore, it is better that the people wait for the proper time that Jesus reveals Himself and clarifies this real mission.