2nd Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 8th March 2020

Theme: REPENT: TURN AWAY FROM THE WORLD AND TURN TO GOD AND FIND LIFE

  • Genesis 12:1-4;
  • Psalm 32:4-5. 18-20. 22. R. v. 22;
  • 2 Timothy 1:8-10
  • Matthew 17:1-9

Today is the Second Sunday of Lent, Year A. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter, particularly, when we prepare to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, or renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night! Lent is therefore a time of penance, repentance and conversion.

That is why during this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms; not to punish us for our sins, but to help us to covert and find life! Conversion is not only turning away from sin, but conversion is also turning away from oneself and from the world; but most importantly, conversion is turning to God and consequently to neighbor!

That is why on giving Ashes on Ash Wednesday, the priest says: “Repent and believe the Good News.”! (BM/Mk 1:15) In other words, ‘Turn away from sin, self, and world; and turn to God and consequently, to neighbor and find life.’!

The alternative formula for the administration of Ashes is: “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return.”! (Gn 3:19) In other words, if we turn away from God like Adam did, we will become dust, that is, death as Adam was; but if we turn back to God we will find life! That is why I used the first formula!

The readings today tell us to turn away from the world and to turn to God and find life! The first reading tells us that Abraham turned away from the world and turned to God and found life! The first reading tells us that God called Abraham to leave his country, his family, and his father’s house; and go to a land God will show him, and God will bless him and through him God will bless all the nations and all the peoples of the world! Abraham was 75 years old and he was blessed with a son – Isaac! And through him the whole world was blessed! Again, turn away from the world and turn to God and you will find life!

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us to hope in God for He loves us! Thus the response of the responsorial psalm: “May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.”! (Ps 32:22)

The responsorial psalm has 3 stanzas. The first stanza tells us that God created the universe with his word. (Ps 32:4-5) This becomes clearer when we read up to verse 9. The second stanza tells us that God alone is the savior. (Ps 32:18-19) And that is why the third stanza – which is also the response – tells us to put all our hope in God for he alone loves us! (Ps 32:20. 22/NJBC/CSB/HCSB)

God created us out of love (Father)! God saved us out of love! (Son) And God continues to sanctify us out of love! (Holy Spirit) The “Mystery of the Holy Trinity” is the Mystery of the God of love! The God of law is not the “Mystery of the Holy Trinity”, because the God of law is not the God of love!

The gospel follows the theme of the first reading and the responsorial psalm. The gospel also tells us to turn away from the world and to turn to God to find life! The gospel is on the Transfiguration and it is placed immediately after Jesus’ first prophesy of his suffering, death and resurrection; and Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him in order to find life! (Mt 16:21-26)

The transfiguration is only a prefigure and a foreshadow of the Resurrection to affirm and confirm the faith of the disciples for the impending death of Jesus and for their own deaths as followers of Jesus! The Transfiguration is to strengthen the faith of the disciples so that they will believe that in the death of Jesus is resurrection and new life! (NJB/Raas/Lefrois) Again, the gospel tells us to turn away from the world and to turn to God to find life!

Thus the hymn: I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS (N32):

“I have decided to follow Jesus (3x) No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me (3x) No turning back, no turning back.

Take the whole world, but give me Jesus (3x) I’ll follow Him, I’ll follow Him.”!

Indeed, the Lord has risen from the dead! The second reading follows the theme of the day, that is, turn away from the world and turn to God to find life! In the second reading Paul tells Timothy: “With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News.”! (2 Timothy 1:8) Or in the words of Jesus, “Take up your cross and follow me.”! (Mt 16:24/Raas) Again, the second reading tells us to turn away from the world and to turn to God to find life!

Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit, to help us during this time of Lent, to do penance, to pray, to fast, and to give alms; and to repent and to convert. The Holy Spirit will help us to prepare for Easter and for the Sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, or renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A happy Lent to all of you!

 

Amen!

1st Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 1st March 2020

Theme: LENT IS A TIME OF PENANCE, REPENTANCE AND CONVERSION

  • Genesis 2:7-9. 3:1-7;
  • Psalm 50:3-6. 12-14. 17. R. v. 3;
  • Romans 5:12-19
  • Matthew 4:1-11 

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter, particularly, when we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil Night or renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night! Lent is therefore a time of penance, repentance and conversion!

During this time of Lent the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor in order to help us in our conversion! Conversion is not only turning away from sin, but conversion is also turning away from oneself and from the world, but above all conversion is turning to God!

On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the priest distributed the ashes with these or similar words: “Repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mk 1:15/HCSB) In other words, turn away from sin, from oneself and from the world, and turn to God!

The first reading tells us that Adam and Eve turned away from God and turned towards themselves! They wanted to “be like gods”! The wanted to be independent of God and they wanted to be dependent on themselves. They committed the Original Sin of Pride. They committed the radical sin of self-reliance, and of self-sufficiency! They brought death to the world! The very words of the tempter, the devil, tell us of the very nature of the Sin of Adam and Eve!

Thus we read in the first reading: “The serpent asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death”.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’” (Gn 3:1-5)

But more importantly, the gospel tells us that Jesus Christ turned away from the world and turned to God! To begin with, the 40 days of Jesus Christ in the desert correspond to the 40 years of the Israelites in the desert; and the 3 temptations of Jesus Christ correspond to the 3 temptations of the Israelites in the desert and later in the Promised Land, namely, the temptations of bread, water, and idol worship! The temptations of bread and water were in the desert and the temptation of worshiping idols was in Canaan, the Promised Land. (NJB/CSB/Craghan) The 3 answers of Jesus Christ to the 3 temptations tell us that Jesus Christ turned away from the world and turned to God!

Thus we read in the gospel: (i) “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (ii) “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” (iii) “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.”

But most importantly, the second reading tells us that in Adam, we turned away from God and sinned and we experienced death, but in Jesus Christ and through his grace, we turned back to God and we live!

Thus we read in the second reading: “It was by one man’s offence that death came to reign over all, but how much greater the reign in life of those who receive the fullness of grace and the gift of saving justice, through the one man Jesus Christ.”! (Rm 5:17/NJB)

The responsorial psalm is a prayer of repentance and conversion! (CSB) Thus the response of the responsorial psalm: “Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.” (Ps 50:3)

The responsorial psalm has 4 stanzas. In the first and second stanzas, the psalmist asks God to forgive his sins. (Ps 50:3-6) In the third and fourth stanzas, the psalmist asks God to transform him so that he will not sin anymore! (Ps 50:12-14. 17/CSB/IBC)

King David prayed this psalm after taking someone’s wife and killing the husband. (NJB) Today we make this responsorial psalm our own prayer of repentance and conversion!

Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and our Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit, to help us during this time of Lent, to do penance, to repent and to convert, so that we may be prepared to celebrate Easter, and particularly, so that we may be prepared to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, or renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, and die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A happy Lent to all of you! Amen!

Ash Wednesday – 26th February 2020

Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN WE “REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL”

  • Joel 2:12-18 (SSC)
  • Psalm 50:3-6. 12-14. 17. R. v. 3
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20 – 6:2
  • Matthew 6:1-6. 16-18 

Today is Ash Wednesday the first day of Lent. Lent is a time of retreat and renewal of the Church, when we prepare ourselves to renew our Baptismal faith, and celebrate Easter, and rise with Jesus Christ from the dead to the new life of Easter! The word Lent means “springtime”! This is the time of the year when the countries in the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the sun and the days become longer and warmer! It is springtime as opposed to wintertime! It is a time of new life! In the same way, when we are turned towards God we experience new life, but when we are turned towards ourselves or towards the world, we experience sin and death!

The traditional formula for administering the ashes is “remember man that you are dust and unto dust you will return”! These were the words God said to Adam when he Sinned! It was no ordinary actual sin, big or small, it was Original Sin! The sin of believing in oneself rather than believing in God! In Genesis 3:5 the Devil tempted Adam to be like God and Adam fell for the temptation and after the fall in Genesis 3:19 God said to Adam “For dust you are and to dust you shall return”! Dust and ashes cannot give life, only God can give life! If we turn on ourselves and on the world we will not find life!

Lent is a time when we turn away from ourselves and from the world and from our sins and more importantly, we turn towards God for love, mercy, forgiveness and life! Thus the new formula for administering the ashes “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel”! But I prefer the original text in Mark 1:15 from which it was taken, that is, “repent and believe the good news”! These were the first words of Jesus in Mark’s gospel!

The word repent comes from the Greek word “metanoia” which means to convert! It means not only a turning away from sin, but more importantly it means a turning towards God! It means an about turn, a 180% turn, a U turn! And the word believe means putting our faith in God and not in ourselves and not in the world! On Easter Vigil Night before we celebrate the Eucharist, we will be asked to renew our Baptismal faith. I do not like the words Baptismal promises. We will be asked the following 6 questions. Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises? And the second 3 questions are even more important. Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church? And we will answer, “I do”! And the priest will sprinkle you with the newly blessed water of Baptism! And after that we will celebrate the Eucharist of Easter Vigil Night and rise with Jesus Christ from the dead to the New Life of Easter!

The Church has chosen the first reading from the Prophet Joel to tell us to repent with communal prayer and fasting, for our God is a merciful and forgiving God! The first reading was written in 400 B.C. when Judah was plagued by locust, which ate up the crops. The prophet Joel told the Israelites to repent and to do penance and to pray and to fast, and God will relent and will drive the locust far away, and the crops will grow again!

The Church has edited the responsorial psalm to go with the first reading! The responsorial psalm is a penitential psalm. It is a prayer of a repentant sinner! The response is “have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned”! The psalm continues (1) “have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offence. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. (2) My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned: what is evil in your sight I have done. (3) A pure heart create for me, O god, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit. (4) Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervor sustain me. O Lord open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise”!

The Church has chosen the second reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians to tell us to make peace with God now, to reconcile with God now! Now is the favorable time! This is the day of salvation!

God has made the sinless one into sin so that we may become the goodness of God! Do not let this grace pass us by! God has reconciled us to himself! Let us respond to God’s reconciliation by reconciling ourselves to God! Now is the favorable time to be reconciled to God! Lent time is the favorable time to be reconciled to God! This is the day of salvation!

The Church has chosen the gospel today from Matthew to tell us to do 3 things during this time of Lent, to help us turn away from the world and from sin, and to turn to God who is love, mercy, forgiveness, and new life! The gospel today tells us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor! In prayer we turn to God, in fasting we turn away from ourselves and we turn to God, and in alms giving we not only help the poor, but we also help ourselves by turning away from money and from the world and turning to God! Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the 3 things done by a pious Jew! The Christians took over these practices from the pious Jews. The Church asks us to pray, fast, and give alms to the poor, to help us “repent and believe in the gospel”!

Again, the 3 formulas for administering ashes on Ash Wednesday are: (1) “remember man that you are dust and unto dust you will return”. Man is dust and ashes, man is not God, dust and ashes have no life; only God can give us life! (2) “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel”. This is taken from Mark 1:15. (3) “Repent and believe the gospel”, Mark 1:15! I will use this third formula when I give you the ashes, because this third formula expresses the spirit of Lent best! A happy Lent to all of you! Amen!