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March 12, 2014

Wednesday in the 1st Week of LentSign of Jonah wide flip

Saint for the day: St. Maximilian (d. 295)

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

Jonah 3:1-10

Psalm 51

Luke 11:29-32


                     “Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” (Luke 11:30)

I’m sure that the liturgists and those who put together the Lectionary for the Masses during the year delight in the Lenten Season. This is one of the few times when they can jump around and try to select scripture readings that fit together and give us a much clearer take on our relationship with God. You don’t have to work very hard to see the connections in today’s liturgy. The Holy Gospel puts it right out there in clear sight: “At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” (Luke 11:32)  

Just in case you need a “refresher course” for the story of Jonah you aught to go back and check it out. The book is very short so it won’t take you very long to “get the whole picture.”  I’ll wait while you do that. You might also “google” Nineveh to know more about it. It is modern-day Mosul, Iraq and was one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity.

Jonah spit upSome points to consider on this early day in Lent: Jesus was a good Jew and knew His Old Testament so was familiar with the story which capitalized on some well-known facts. Jonah doesn’t want to have to do what God is asking him. How real is that to most of us? And he tries to get away by jumping on a boat. You have to understand that most of the Jewish folk had a terrible fear of the ocean. That was where Leviathan – the great sea monster – lived. Jonah is thrown overboard but saved by the very thing he feared. Think about that for a moment … we have here a precursor of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Bottom line: it’s often the case that the one thing that we most fear is the very thing that we have to confront.   In today’s Holy Gospel Jesus says, “This generation is an evil generation …” words that have a timelessness sense in that they apply to every generation. In some ways, there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

broken humble heart I’m sure that Jonah was crying to himself, “Why me, Lord? What did I ever do to deserve all this?” Then, he’s surprised when the people listen to him and heed his words. Can’t you just see him bursting with pride? But that “glory” came at the price of some kind of death and re-birth. That’s why we go through this “Lenten Time” over and over until if finally sinks in: we can’t run away from what Jesus is trying to get us to understand: we all need to confront our own frailty and repent of all our sinfulness – whatever that is that keeps us from knowing the fullness of God’s Love for us.     But we also hear: “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn” (Response verse for today’s Psalm 51)  Amen!

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March 11, 2014

Tuesday in the 1st Week of Lent

Saint for the day: St. ConstantineGod Spirit Creation stained glass                                    

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

Isaiah 55:10-11

Psalm 34

Matthew 6:7-15

“So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)   What is this “word” that comes from the mouth of God? The Prologue to St. John’s Gospel – which we used to read at the end of every Mass – starts with: “In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was made flesh…” 

young-old helping sqIf we go back to the very beginning of our Holy Scriptures, with the story of creation we can almost hear the Voice of God, at each stage of creation, “…and God saw that it was good…!” But we also know that it didn’t take very long for the first humans to stumble and fall from Grace. Still, we have that consolation from the end of today’s first Scripture from Isaiah: “[that word] shall not return to me void, but shall do my will…”  However, today’s Holy Gospel gives us the “Lord’s Prayer” and there is always the tendency to “rattle it off” since it is so familiar to us and the depth of the words is sometimes lost. Take a few moments to hear that key line: “…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;” This is a variation of that familiar phrase, “What goes around, comes around!” And you’ve heard me talk on this theme before. If you want forgiveness? Start forgiving; if you want food; start feeding.

“My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will …” The creative word of God is an “action word.” It’s not static. That’s why I harp during our Lenten Journey on the necessity of “taking on” or doing something positive rather than just giving up something that often just causes us to put too much attention on ourselves and not much on those who are most in need of help. 

Sticking with the “word theme” puts us right into the very act of creation:   building up as opposed to giving up. Perhaps we all need to spendhill of crosses long some time today thinking of the ways we can share in this creative word of God. What might you do today that would cause God to say, “Ah! That was good; another ‘creative day’ in your life!”  Saying all of this is good even though we know that our journey will still involve picking up our crosses and going up the Hill of Calvary. But just knowing that we’ve tried to do some good to somebody … even if they aren’t aware … is enough for us to be able to hear, “and God saw that it was good!” Another day in God’s never-ending act of creation. Amen!

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March 10, 2014

Monday in the 1st Week of LentJesus eating w three long

Saint for the day: St. John Ogilvie (1579-1610)

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18

Psalm 19

Matthew 25:31-46 


“For when I was hungry you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35ff)

You don’t have to be a “highfalutin scripture scholar” to see that Jesus was a well versed Jew who knew his Old Testament inside out and backwards. That’s why He could say, “I did not come to abolish the Law … but to fulfill it!” And so much of his preaching was based on these Scripture readings that we are hearing in these first days of Lent: the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. The verse for today’s Responsorial Psalm reminds us: “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life” and just to be sure to drive it home: we repeat the line five times!

welcoming drawingWe are thankful to the early Christian community who collected and put together these words and teachings of Jesus in a fashion that would be easy for us to remember. That’s why they spelled it out so very clearly: “When I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, in prison…you were there for me.” When the people ask Jesus, “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, in prison … and care for you? ” Jesus’ answer: “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”   Then, just to be sure the people “got it” Jesus repeats the whole thing again from the negative angle: “ For when I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, in prison …you turned your back on me.”

If all of us just took one aspect of today’s Holy Gospel – and worked on it for these 40 days of Lent – imagine what our Church and the worldjailbird w rosary could be like? That’s why I so often repeat the warning to keep the words of St. Francis in mind: “do few things and do them well.” The Church is built up brick by brick; stone by stone.

When I was doing retreat work I always told the retreat participants to be careful about that “fourth day” – the day when they went home and were no longer in this peaceful, quiet retreat setting. I cautioned them to just look at one of the Beatitudes and try to put that into practice. Don’t try to correct a lifetime of bad habits all at once. Can you at least remember to greet God in the morning when you wake up? And say “good night” before you fall asleep?  If you begin with small steps like that, I can assure you that you will see God guiding and leading you along the right path. But don’t let setbacks discourage you. Remember!   If you don't get it right this time you'll get another chance.  We’ll get to do this all over again, next year! Happy Lent!

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March 9, 2014

First Sunday of LentAdam  Eve - garden wide

Saint for the day: St. Dominic Savio - (1842-1857)       

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7

Psalm 51

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-1

                                                  “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” (Today’s response verse for Psalm 51)

If we had to have one “banner saying” for the entire season of Lent, the above verse from today’s Responsorial Psalm could easily fit the bill. There are two other thoughts that are whirling around in my head: “Let’s start from the very beginning…” and “Haven’t we done this before?”

To start with, the “response verse” above, might better be spoken, “Be merciful, O Lord for we SINputting it in present/perfect tense, rather than simply looking at it as something that is done and over with.

Jesus Tempted iconSecondly, the holy scripture reading from the beginning of the Book of Genesis takes us all the way back to paradise and the story of the fall of Adam and Eve. And this is put up against the Holy Gospel of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness before the start of his public ministry. And the one important difference between them and Jesus, was that He was “tempted, like us, in all ways but sin!” (Hebrews4:15)

In the “Genesis temptation” Eve is wooed into biting the apple (which she shares with Adam) and “…their eyes were immediately opened …” and what happened? “They realized that they were naked!” Their innocence was lost and something that God intended to be a beautiful gift was forever changed. I’m sure that we all have experiences of seeing little children in their innocence come running out the bathroom – stark naked after their evening bath – shouting, “Daddy, daddy, look at me! I’m all clean!”

And so we spend the rest of our lives struggling to return to this paradise lost. I think that one of the lessons that we always need to learn (maybe over and over again) is that we are constantly confronted with situations where we think there is nothing wrong with just taking a little bite from this attraction or that. Remember – and I’ve said this many times before – St. Thomas Aquinas says that we never choose evil because it is evil; but because we fool ourselves into thinking it’s really not all that bad!

In the Gospel, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness fits into three general categories: a quest for physical satisfaction. “Turn these stones intoJesus tempted 3
The apple was sweet tasting and has remained that way even after the fall. Perhaps that’s why we have to be so careful about what we think is “no big deal” that ends up being the cause of our falling. Notice, again, that I put this into the present/perfect tense.

The second temptation that Jesus faced is the challenging of God to do some outlandish act to “prove” God’s care and protection. I’ll let you take a moment to think about the ways in which you try to make deals with God: “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

The last temptation that we hear about in today’s Holy Gospel is “false worship” and none of us should have any trouble identifying the things in our lives that we make into gods. In today’s world where anything is OK the last line of today’s Holy Gospel is very important: “It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” (Matt 4:10)

Your homework? Look up the “Anima Christi” prayer which is a good way to begin each of these “Lenten Days” along with the Morning Offering. In our present world we need all the help possible to avoid temptations that banish us from God’s Love. Amen!

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The General Curia

The church and convent of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome have been home to the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) since the 13th century. At that time the church and associated buildings formed part of the holdings of the Savelli family. A Savelli Pope, Honorius III, approved the Order in 1216. Read more...

Province of St. Joseph

The Dominican friars of the Province of St. Joseph were founded in 1806 by Edward Dominic Fenwick, O.P., an American who had joined the English Province of the Order as a young man during its exile in Belgium. Fenwick eventually returned to the United States with the dream of establishing the Order in his native land. Read more...


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