HARDEN NOT YOUR HEART!

Thursday 3rd March – Thursday of the 3rd week of Lent

Reflection: Psalm 94: 1-2, 6-9

HARDEN NOT YOUR HEART!

“…O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts… “(Psalm 95:7-8)

Today’s psalm, like the season of Lent itself is a call to repentance for us. It tells us how eagerly the Lord expects us to come into his presence with our hearts and minds set on repentance. Why the Lord does not force us to repent, He constantly reminds us that we are His people and has paid the price for our redemption. His arms remain wide open as He seeks every opportunity to draw us to Himself.

Dear friends, as young people we sometimes want to live our lives without the reminder that there is a God somewhere reaching out to us. Christ tells us: “Anyone who is not for me is really against me…” (Luke 11:23). Every sincere act of repentance leads us closer to Christ who desires to have us come back to him.

You may have strayed far away from God and plunged yourself deep in sin. Do not despair my friend; God seeks your return; He is waiting for you with all eagerness, ready to run just like the father of the prodigal son as soon as you take a few steps back to Him. Do not follow the evil intentions and stubborn desires of your youthful heart. Today, you have heard His voice; will you harden your heart? The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy and he responds to repentance

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Oh that today I would listen to your voice. Draw me away from sin and closer to you this season of grace. 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: “You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them and give them up; then God will show mercy to you.” Proverbs 28:13 GNB

Readings for Today: Jeremiah 7: 23-28; Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-9; Luke 11: 14-23

DON’T JUST TEAR YOUR CLOTHES

Tuesday 1st March – Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Reflection: Joel 2:12-13 (Gospel Acclamation)

DON’T JUST TEAR YOUR CLOTHES

Tearing of clothes in the Jewish setting signified penance and a deep quest for God. Yet, outward acts alone do not show what a man is really made of. The true man is of the heart. In this season of Lent, there is a great tendency for us to put up an outward show of penitence. This in fact a good start in aiming for the real thing. What then is the real thing? The real thing is the inward transformation of the heart. Since creation, the state of man’s heart has always been of paramount importance to God. Hence, in Genesis 6:5-6, God lamented terribly when he saw the wickedness of man’s heart.

God desires that we not only attend the Stations of the Cross, Masses or Retreats this season, but that we check the depths of our hearts to ensure that there is no wickedness therein. During this season, we are called to fast and do abstinence. These too should not just be external acts, but should have a deep effect in our heart; they should tear our heart away from seeking earthly pleasures and turn it towards God. The reading of today explains it perfectly: “tear your hearts and not your clothes”, God says. (Joel 2:13). Beloved, let us use this season of lent to come to God wholeheartedly and he would surely shine his face upon us for He is gracious and merciful.

PRAYER: Dear Father, please give me the grace to come to you always with sincerity of heart. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 2519: “The “pure in heart” are promised that they will see God face to face and be like Him. Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God. Even now it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as “neighbours”.

HIDE A TREASURE: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”. 1Samuel 16:7c GNB..

Today’s Readings: Daniel 3:25, 34-43; Psalm 25: 4-9; Matthew 18:21-35

RETURN TO YOUR FATHER

Saturday 27th February – Saturday of the 2nd week of Lent

Reflection: Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

RETURN TO YOUR FATHER

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the two sacraments of healing in the Church; it obtains pardon from God for the offense committed against Him and by the Priest’s sacramental absolution, God grants the penitent “pardon and peace”. In approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the first step is Interior Penance; recognition of guilt with repugnance towards the evil actions we have committed. Next is a contrite heart; sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again. Then comes the confession of sins to the priest after a diligent self-examination. Lastly, the Satisfaction; is fulfilling the penance given by the priest in order to make amends for the sin.

The Prodigal Son’s process of conversion stems from a recognition of his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, his reflection on all he had lost, a sorrowful heart for what he had done, his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey home. Up to this point he had lived “outside “of himself; now in the language of the Gospel he “enters into himself”, that is, he begins to look inwards and see his true nature.

When he starts back, he finds that the father is out on the roadway ready to welcome him back. Forgiveness meets us more than halfway. The father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The Beautiful robe, the ring and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life – pure, worthy and joyful – of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of His Family, which is the Church.

Dear Friends, let us take time to reflect and identify areas of our life where we have strayed from God, let us be sorrowful for them and pray for the grace to fully complete our conversion process. Remember, no matter how bad your past might have been, you can always begin anew with God. Today God calls us to conversion; He calls us to journey home.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to remember always that my sins are not greater than your mercy. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 1470 – Effects of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life. For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin.

HIDE A TREASURE: “Jesus spoke up “healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I have come to call to repentance; I call sinners, not the righteous” Luke 5:31-32 CCB

Today’s Readings: Micah 7:14-15, 18-20, Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

EMBRACE GOD’S MERCY

Tuesday 23rd February – Tuesday of the 2nd week of Lent

Reflection: Isaiah 1:10, 16-20

EMBRACE GOD’S MERCY

One of the gifts of new life given to us is the gift of reconciliation. God calls us to Himself always out of love to reconcile us with Him. This beautiful and reassuring truth is at the heart of this holy Season as we are called to repentance and is central to the Jubilee year of mercy as we celebrate the mercy of God the Father who doesn’t want any of His children to be lost. It is in this light God tells us in today’s first reading “come now, let us reason together, if your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

God calls you and I to examine our lives: are their elements of hypocrisy in us? Are there certain attitudes, habits or conversations we engage in that do not bring honour to God? He reminds us today of his ever open arms but also of the terrible prospect of judgement on those who fail to repent. “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Dear friend, no matter how far you may have strayed, our loving Father is ever ready to welcome you home. Simply call out to Him.

PRAYER: Merciful father, have mercy on me and draw me nearer to you. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 367 – To whom does the Fourth Commandment refer, and what does it require of us?

The Fourth Commandment refers in the first place to one’s physical parents, but also to the people to whom we owe our life, our well-being, our security, and our faith.

What we owe in the first place to our parents—namely love, gratitude, and respect—should also govern our relations to people who guide us and are there for us. There are many people who represent for us a God-given, natural, and good authority: foster or step-parents, older relatives and ancestors, educators, teachers, employers, superiors. In the spirit of the Fourth Commandment we should do them justice. In the broadest sense, this commandment applies even to our duties as citizens to the State.

HIDE A TREASURE: “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land” Isaiah 1:19 RSV-CE

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 1:10, 16-20; Psalm 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 &23; Matthew 23: 1-12

OUR FATHER’S OPEN ARMS

Saturday 9th January – Saturday after Epiphany

Reflection: 1 John 5: 14-21

OUR FATHER’S OPEN ARMS

Often times, when the subject of sin is discussed, we all have the tendency to feel uneasy. The reason for this is not farfetched; bearing in mind that none of us as human beings is without sin. The Bible reminds us that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, the truth is not in us and we make God a liar (1John 1:8-10). My dear friends, the good news is that as Christians, in as much as the reminder of our sinfulness should humble us and make us sorry for our sins, it should not end with sorrow. Instead, every reminder of our sinfulness is in itself a reminder of our Heavenly Father’s great mercy.

Indeed, the very passage that reminds us of our sinfulness also reminds us that our Father is “faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9). However, this reminder goes with the condition that we confess our sins. Today’s reading gives us the biblical root of the Church’s teaching on mortal and venial sins as it differentiates deadly sin from non-deadly sin (1 John 5:16-17). While mortal sins separate us from God, venial sins strain our relationship with God but do not bring a total separation from God. While we can pray on our own and receive forgiveness from venial sins, mortal sins require a sacramental confession before forgiveness can be obtained. (1 John 5:16; John 20:22-23).

Dear young friend, what is that sin that burdens your soul? What is it that makes you feel guilty each time you approach God in prayer? What is it that is keeping you away from the Eucharist – the very source of your strength? Please do not succumb to the devil’s accusation. Your Father is waiting with His arms open wide, not seeking to condemn you, but seeking to welcome you back. Please do not flee from God’s mercy. Make a decision today to approach God through His priest in confession and receive the boundless joy of a life made new.

PRAYER: My loving Father, I thank you for the reminder that you have not given up on me. Please forgive me for the many times I have offended you and give me the courage to approach you in confession. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 236 – Why are priests the only ones who can forgive sins?

No man can forgive sins unless he has a commission from God to do so and the power given by him to ensure that the forgiveness he promises the penitent really takes place. The →BISHOP, in the first place, is appointed to do that and, then, his helpers, the ordained →PRIESTS.

HIDE A TREASURE: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9 RSV-CE

 Readings for today: 1 John 5: 14-21; Psalm 149: 1-6, 9; John 3: 22-30

GAUDETE!

Sunday 13th December – 3rd Sunday of Advent

Reflection: Luke 3:10-18

GAUDETE!

As we get half-way through Advent we are greeted at Mass today with “Rejoice!” The Entrance Antiphon captures the message in a beautiful way: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” The “Gaudete” Sunday calls you and me, amidst the penitential nature of Advent, to embrace our hope and expectation with joy. What better reason do we have to be joyous than the reassurance that our Lord and Saviour is near?

When we encounter difficulties in our day to day lives – at home, at work, in our communities, in our nation, we can easily become so overburdened that we do not see any reason for joy. Yet God tells us to look beyond all these and see how much we are loved by the very God that holds the universe in existence. St Paul calls us in the second reading to hand over our worries and concerns to God in prayer so we may experience His peace, one that is much greater than we can understand and one that keeps our hearts in perspective.

The question of John’s hearers should become our own too: “what must we do?” We must rid ourselves of the division and strife caused by sin and human selfishness. Remember that the call to rejoice is for the entire human race. Is there any way your words and actions may be preventing your neighbour from experiencing the joy that God fills our heart with? John the Baptist called the people to reconciliation and a life of love and sharing. Advent gives you an opportunity for reconciliation as we wait in hope to celebrate our Saviour’s birth. Let us grasp this opportunity and experience the rivers of overflowing joy in us and around us.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, please fill me with your joy today and help me share that joy with all who surround me. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 311-What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit?

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

 

HIDE A TREASURE: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” Philippians 4:4 RSV-CE

Today’s Readings: Zephaniah 3:14-18; Isaiah 12 (canticle); Phil 4:4-7; Luke 3: 10-18

BLESSED ARE THE PEACE MAKERS

Monday 15th June – Monday of week 11 of the year

Reflection: Matthew 5:38-42

BLESSED ARE THE PEACE MAKERS

I ordinarily enjoy listening to news in other to keep abreast of happenings at the national and global levels. However, in recent times, it appears I am gradually losing my fondness for news, especially as it affects the world at large. Barely can you watch a news bulletin on the cable stations without the report of violence, killings and wars. Despite efforts by multinational bodies like the United Nations and the rest, sustainable peace remains elusive to many parts of the world. Man’s roadmaps to peace have failed again and again.

At the root of many conflicts are injustice, greed and pride. These are fuelled by lack of sincere reconciliation and forgiveness. Against the world’s belligerent and vengeful disposition to injustice and oppression, Christ advocates a peaceful and non-retaliatory resolution of differences. This is the stem of the Gospel message for today.

Beloved in Christ, how quick are you to retaliate unjust act done to you? Do you allow the sobriety and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guide your actions or you are rather too hasty to follow the natural but rarely productive convention around you? If we would be peace makers, we must necessarily possess a good deal of meekness and forgiveness. We must constantly remind ourselves that the way of God, though sometimes look foolish to the world, clearly supersedes the ways of man. Let us stand as agent of peace in our world; let us model Christ response to injustice and be generous in forgiveness. Yes we can, through the help of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 4:13).

PRAYER: Dear Lord, please grant me a heart that is meek, loving and patient. Help me to be an agent of peace wherever I go. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 397What does Jesus think about nonviolence?

Jesus places a high value on nonviolent action. He commands his disciples: “Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt 5:39).

Hide a treasure: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5: 9 RSV-CE

Today’s Readings: 2 Corinthians 6: 1-10; Psalm 98:1-4; Matthew 5:38-42