THE DEMANDS OF THE KINGDOM

Friday 19th February – Friday of the 1st week of Lent

Reflection: Matthew 5:20-26

THE DEMANDS OF THE KINGDOM

The Kingdom of God is a delicate matter which every serious Christian should pay keen attention to. This Kingdom demands that we live beyond the standards of this world. For instance, the standard of the world is to “be good to only those who are good to you”. But for a Christian, we are called to something much higher because the scripture enjoins us to “love our enemies, bless those that curse us and do good to them that hate us…” (Matthew 5:44). Often, we find ourselves falling short of this Kingdom standard. Hence, what must we do?

First we must acknowledge our weaknesses before God and implore the help of the Holy Spirit. One of the reasons why God gave us His Holy Spirit is to convict us of righteousness. (John 16:8). Beloved, what this means is that you will no longer try to be righteous by your own strength or human will, rather the Holy Spirit will teach you a new pattern of righteousness that comes from intimacy with Him. Dear friends, hatred and malice are never to be found in the rank of a Christian. Why not turn to the Holy Spirit today, He is ready to help you; He is ready to pour into your heart the love of God that stands above any form of pride, anger, envy or any vice that seeks to drain us of God’s love and mercy.

PRAYER: Precious Holy Spirit, I acknowledge your presence in me and ask you to help me shed off every weakness of character in my life this day. Please grant me the grace to cooperate with you in this purpose. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 112What will it be like when Christ judges us and the whole world?

“Even Christ cannot help someone who does not want to know anything about love; such a person judges himself.

Because Jesus Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), He will show what is of lasting value in God’s sight and what is not. Held up to the standard of His life, the full truth about all people, things, thoughts, and events will come to light.

HIDE A TREASURE: “If thou, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” Psalm 130:3 RSV

Readings for today: Ezekiel 18:21-28; Psalm 130:1-5, 7-8; Matthew 5:20-26

IMITATING THE FATHER

Thursday 18th February – Thursday of the 1st week of Lent

Reflection: Matthew 7:7-12

IMITATING THE FATHER

God the Father is the author of the popular maxim: “Treat others as you would like them to treat you” (the Golden Rule). Jesus teaches us today about the dependable nature of God the Father. He dares you to ask God the Father for anything, with the guarantee that you would receive it. (Matt.7:7). Esther was not disappointed when she sought the intervention of God in the plight that had befallen the Israelites.

We have a lesson to learn from this nature of God. How often can people depend on you? How well do you keep your promises to others? You should be ready to give your best whenever your help is needed by your fellow men. To activate this nature in your life today, you must draw near to the Father and learn from Him. Remember that it is not by your power that you become faithful or righteous, but by the grace of God. To tap into this grace, you have to draw nearer today in order to imitate Him. The Father says to you today: “draw near to me and I will draw near to you”. (James 4:8)

PRAYER: Father, bestow upon me this day, the grace to be faithful and dependable as you are. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 27 – “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to Himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.”

HIDE A TREASURE: “Do for others what you want them to do for you…” Matthew 7:12 GNB

Today’s Readings: Esther 14: 1-4, 11-14; Psalm 138:1-3, 7-8; Matthew 7:7-12

REPENT!

Wednesday 17th February – Wednesday of the 1st week of Lent

Reflection: Jonah 3: 1-10

REPENT!

The theme of repentance is put before us over and over again in the Church’s calendar as She calls her children to seek forgiveness and turn away from evil. However, this theme becomes even more prominent during this season of Lent. Our Mother Church sets aside forty days to focus on repentance, self-denial and almsgiving as we reflect on the passion of our Lord Jesus and prepare to celebrate His resurrection with brand new hearts and minds.

The call to repentance and reconciliation with God is ultimately for our own benefit. Sin hurts us deeply because it strains or totally severes our relationship with our loving Father who is the only source of peace and contentment. Just as Jonah was sent to preach repentance to the Ninevites so also does the message of repentance come to us again this season. Are we going to respond like the Ninevites who turned away from sin and sought God’s mercy?

Jesus tells us in the gospel reading that our judgement will be severe if we fail to repent. Why? Much more that sending a prophet like Jonah, God has come down to dwell with us through Jesus Christ and shown us the way to repentance and peace with Him. Hence we have no excuse if we fail to listen to Jesus as He speaks in the gospels and through our Priests today. What is that sinful pattern that is taking charge of your life and making you hide your face from God? Dear friends, let us today humble ourselves and ask for God’s mercy. Let us approach Him in the Sacrament of reconciliation and receive His sancitifying grace in the Eucharist. Let us ask for the grace to truly “turn around” and abandon the sinful habits that hold us captive.

PRAYER: Lord, please have mercy on me. Grant me the grace to live a new life in you – a life of sincerity and holiness. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 229What prepares a person for repentance?

The insight into one’s personal guilt produces a longing to better oneself; this is called contrition. We arrive at contrition when we see the contradiction between God’s love and our sin. Then we are full of sorrow for our sins; we resolve to change our life and place all our hope in God’s help.
HIDE A TREASURE: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” Acts 3:19 RSV-CE

Today’s Readings: Jonah 3: 1-10; Psalm 51: 3-4, 12-13, 18-19; Luke 11: 29-32

JESUS IS ON THE STREETS!

Monday 15th February – Monday of the 1st week of Lent

Reflection: Matthew 25: 31-46

JESUS IS ON THE STREETS!

One of the things that scare many of us greatly is the prospect of death and judgment. Each time we think of it, we are shaken to our bones as we imagine having to stand before God and give an account of our lives. Today’s reading gives us the only picture of judgment given by Christ in all the gospels. And to our surprise, it is not based on very “big” acts of piety or perfection. Rather it is based on the “little” acts of love we extend to others.

Jesus has given us a new commandment – love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34). While in the old covenant, God’s people were instructed to love others as their own selves, Jesus gives us a much higher calling: Love as I have loved you. And how did He love us? By laying down his life for us, hence calling us to lay down our lives for our brethren (1 John 3:16). As baptized Catholics, we are partakers of the new covenant in Christ Jesus and our identity is that of love; “By this all men will know that you are my disciples…” John 13:35.

Dear friends, in the midst of our increasingly secular and individualistic world, Jesus tell us to look around and see Him on the streets around us: in the poor, lonely, blind, homeless, sick, prisoners etc. He calls us to live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy especially this jubilee year of mercy. He says to us in the Stations of the Cross: “seek me not in faraway places. I am very close to you. Your home, your working place, on the streets, the markets, at the playgrounds, these are altars where you offer love and I am there with you”. Let us look up to Him and ask for the grace to love especially during this season of self denial.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You have loved me so much. Please rid me of selfishness; help me to look out for those in need around me and extend your love to them. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 449- What significance do the poor have for Christians?

Love for the poor must be in every age the distinguishing mark of Christians. The poor deserve not just a few alms; they have a claim to justice. For Christians there is a special obligation to share their goods. Our example in love for the poor is Christ.

HIDE A TREASURE: “By this we know love that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” 1 John 3:16 RSV-CE

Today’s Readings: Leviticus 19: 1-2; 11-18; Psalm 19: 8-10, 15; Matthew 25: 31-46

TAKE UP YOUR SWORD

Sunday 14th February – 1st Sunday of Lent

Reflection: Luke 4:1-13

TAKE UP YOUR SWORD

Of the six weapons outlined as components of the armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-18), only one stands out as a weapon of offense. While the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, shield of faith and shoes being the readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace serve as weapons of defense with which we protect ourselves from the devils fiery darts, the sword of the Spirit stands out as the only weapon with which we can launch back our attack on our enemy, the devil (Ephesians 6: 14-16). There are no spears, arrows or rifles on the list.

We are in a constant combat with the enemy. Our sword is the word of God. The living and active word that has the power to convict, heal, transform, teach and strengthen us is also able to destroy the tactics of the devil. In today’s reading, our Lord gives us an example of how to overcome our temptations by countering the deception of the devil with the word of God. Adam and Eve sinned because they allowed the serpent to deceive them, by making God out to be a liar and His word invalid and so they fell from the life of grace (Genesis 3: 4-5).

Dear friends, as we journey through this season of grace, let us take out time to study God’s Word and ask for the grace to be obedient to it. Only when God’s Word dwells in us can we recognize the tactics the enemy uses and destroy them with our sword. Indeed, you and I who have been baptized into Christ have been made righteous through His obedience. Let us hold on to Him and His word in faith so that we can triumph over our flesh, the world and the devil especially this season of Lent.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, please help me to find strength in your word each day so that I may resist the devil and live above sin always. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 475 – How did Jesus pray?

Jesus’ life was one single prayer. At decisive moments (his temptation in the desert, his selection of the apostles, his death on the Cross) his prayer was especially intense. Often he withdrew into solitude to pray, especially at night. Being one with the Father in the Holy Spirit—that was the guiding principle of his earthly life.

HIDE A TREASURE: “I have laid up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119: 11 RSV-CE

Today’s Readings: Deuteronomy 26: 4-10; Psalm 91: 1-2, 10-15; Romans 10: 8-13; Luke 4: 1-13

THIS DELIGHTS OUR GOD

Saturday 8th March – Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Reflection: Ezekiel 33:11 (Gospel Acclamation)

THIS DELIGHTS OUR GOD

In all human relationships, be it friendship or marriage, there is need for mutual understanding of interest. Not only is it important to be aware of this legitimate need, the overall welfare of the relationship largely depends on the preparedness of the concerned partners to selflessly commit themselves to the mutual realization of their partner’s interests. This concept in a way is applicable to our relationship with God. By virtue of Baptism, God has lovingly elevated us to be adopted children (Romans 8: 15-16) and friends of His (John 15:  14-15; Luke 12: 4).

Today’s Gospel acclamation and Gospel reading (Luke 5: 27-32) highlight a paramount interest of our All-sovereign God – Salvation of souls. This was the basis of our Lord’s incarnation and crucifixion. If we have come to the brightness of God’s light (Luke 1: 78-79; John 3:21), to what extent are we daily striving to bring in our neighbours who are still groping in the darkness of sin and iniquity? This is the mission of the Church. The essence of our Christian calling is evangelization, both in words and deeds. That radiant light of Christ must lovingly shine through us. We are not called to be judges over others (Luke 6: 37) as done by the Pharisees and Scribes in today’s Gospel reading.

Dearest in Christ, the Lenten season is a time to deepen our commitment to the work of evangelization. As we make efforts to draw closer to God, we must necessarily seek out practical means to encourage others in same. Our words and actions should be backed up with intercession. It is not our Lord’s will that a sinner should perish, rather He delights to see Him repent and be united with Himself. Let this be our daily pursuit!

PRAYER: Oh Lord, I yield myself as an instrument of evangelization for Your glory! May this deepen my personal commitment to You. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 139 – What is the lay vocation?

The LAITY are sent to engage in society so that the kingdom of God can grow among men.

A lay person is not a second-class Christian, for he shares in the priestly ministry of Christ (the universal priesthood). He sees to it that the people in his walk of life (in school, family and work) come to know the Gospel and learn to love Christ. Through his faith he leaves a mark on society, business, and politics…Young people especially should give serious thought to the question of what place God might want them to have in the Church.

HIDE A TREASURE: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” Luke 15:7 RSV-CE

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 58: 9-14; Psalm 86: 1-6; Luke 5: 27-32

CHOICE AND CONSEQUENCES

Thursday 11th February: Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Reflection: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

CHOICE AND CONSEQUENCES

How many people today live in deep sorrows and regret as a result of the poor choices made in the past? Much as we all have intrinsic desires to be free and exercise our freedom, it is important we ask ourselves how often we consider the obvious and possible consequences of our actions. No matter where we stand on this, an obvious fact is that we cannot just wish away the consequences of our choices. As youths in particular, we can choose to be diligent or slothful; to be chaste or sexually loose. We can choose to allow our character and conscience to be shaped by the eternal word of God or by the deceptive standard of this world.

Despite God’s love and intimate fellowship with our first parents, Adam and Eve, there freedom of choice was well respected by Him (Genesis 3). This continues to be the case even with us Christians of today. God seeks that we would make a choice of Him and His precepts in liberty and love. He continues to make clear to us, as we can see in today’s Gospel, that a decision to follow Him will necessarily demand self-renunciation (Luke 9: 23-24) and a wholehearted acceptance of our crosses.

However, we must never allow ourselves to be deterred by the demands or challenges of righteous pursuits. The Psalmist today is full of encouragement on this – “Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord” (Psalm 1). He who flees the pains of godly discipline must be prepared to accommodate the pains that come with the contrary alternatives. The admonition of Moses to the Israelites in today’s first reading remains relevant to us Christians of today – Choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19). It is only in accepting the life-giving precepts of God that we can be assured of His unfailing blessings and have fulfilment of heart. Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows (Psalm16:4).

PRAYER: Constantly make clear to me your blessed will oh Lord and kindly fill me with renewed grace to accept and abide by it! Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 1696- The way of Christ “leads to life;” a contrary way “leads to destruction.” The Gospel parable of the two ways remains ever present in the catechesis of the Church; it shows the importance of moral decision for our salvation: “There are two ways, the one of life, the other of death; but between the two, there is a great difference.”

HIDE A TREASURE: “…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19b).

Today’s Readings: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20; Psalm 1: 1-4, 6; Luke 9: 22-25