Isaiah 58:1-9; Matthew 9:14-15
What a great reminder for the beginning of Lent. According to today’s first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, there is a right way and a wrong way to fast. It’s a wonderful and challenging passage that has applications far beyond this one religious act (fasting). As Isaiah puts it here, the right way to fast is really a way to be genuinely religious and, for the Christian, adequately to imitate Christ.
First, how NOT to fast -- that would be to be so focused on ourselves that we can’t really see beyond ourselves. Isaiah’s words excoriate those who (allegedly) fast and yet “drive all your laborers,” and let their fasting end in “quarreling and fighting, striking with a wicked claw.”
Isaiah 58:9b-14; Luke 5:27-32
There he goes again, upsetting the order of things. Jesus had been very busy healing the sick, forgiving sins and irritating the Pharisees. They were the ones that were hung up on order and structure, particularly since they were the ones at the top of the order. When Jesus came along, they were no longer the ones at the center of attention---the ones to whom others looked to for guidance and authority. Now the ones at the center of attention were the sinners. . . . tax collectors and crooks, the very dregs of society. Jesus had just encountered Levi, known in the community as a despised tax collector. Those in that profession were known for their scandalous practices, extorting money from the poor, skimming off the top and giving the rest to the Romans. And to everyone’s amazement Jesus chose to go to dinner at Levi’s house. . . a party big enough that they were spread throughout the courtyard. It was a party of crooks and sinners, in plain view of everyone. The Pharisees, who had not been invited to the party, loitered around the periphery, complaining about Jesus eating and drinking with the dregs of society, the very ones they took great pains to stay away from.
Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25
“Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” -- Luke 9
In two paragraphs, today’s Gospel gives us a summary of the life of following Jesus. It will not always be easy and it requires living in a different way than others in the world.
Christian history is filled with people who sacrificed their lives for their faith, but for most of us, “losing our life” does not mean physical dying as we try to live out this life as followers of Jesus. The way most of us “lose our life” is much less dramatic, much less memorable, much more … everyday. How area we being asked to give ourselves away in the here and now?
Joel 2:12-18; 2 Corinthians 5:20—6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
The purpose of Lent is to draw us closer to the Lord Jesus by thinking and meditating and praying about that part of His life that brought Him to death and then to the Resurrection. Truly all of his life was this same journey, but there are aspects of His life that are stronger in the journey.
One of those aspects is His preaching of conversion to all. By conversion, we do not need to think of changing from a life of sin to a better life. We do need to think of changing the heart so that it truly seeks God and not just religious practice.
Psalm 50:5-6, 7-8, 14 and 23
The just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing, nor will it ever be forgotten. ...
Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means. Sirach 35
The disciples of Jesus just got a shock. They watched a young man ask Jesus what it took to be saved. He'd been obedient to the law all his life. When he asked Jesus what "more" he could do, Jesus invited him to an even closer discipleship: "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." The young man's face fell. His many possessions wouldn't let him follow Jesus further, so he went away sad.
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7
Today’s Gospel is one tough message. It’s not enough to just follow the Commandments. Jesus wants us to sell what we have and give it to the poor to enter heaven. He tells the apostles “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 15:54-58
“What you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying!” A few years ago this pithy statement was bandied about as people discussed the need for authenticity and integrity in relationships. Although it may have become trite and hackneyed from overuse, the point remains relevant; it is, in fact, the same point which is made in today’s gospel.
On the 23rd February 2019, our Generalate generously hosted an Assembly of 53 religious men and women from different Congregations, known as the Association of Africans and Malagasies at the Service of Generalates in Rome (AMSG). Both Sr. Honorata Lyimo and Sr. Liberata Niyongira are members of AMSG.
In the middle of February, at the Generalate of the Felician Sisters in Rome, Polish Sisters, priests and brothers, serving in the general governments of their Congregations in Rome, had their first annual meeting. These meetings have a long-standing tradition and serve in building unity among the members, through exchanging experiences, sharing faith and mutual help. They were initiated by Fr. Jan Korycki SAC, and to this day they are very popular. From the very beginning, the focus of the meetings was on integration and formation. They take place twice a year, usually during special gatherings and celebrations of the Church and National events.
Jesus' message is about how we accept the Kingdom of God. He is urging us to shed our cynical, guarded, clever, arrogant, judgmental ways. Jesus is contrasting those who regard themselves as very religious, but can keep Jesus at arm's length, with the children who just run up and embrace him and rest in his embrace. Jesus is inviting us to be more child-like in our trust of him.