Thur-Friday-Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 07-03-19
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 / Luke 9:22-25

Jesus talks about the cross

Pick it up daily and follow me

A young man had just hiked across a long, barren stretch of land.
Reporters asked what he found hardest about it. Was is the loneliness?” “No,” he replied.
Was it the hot sun beating down on you?” No,” he replied.
Was it the dangerous nights by the roadside?” “No,” he replied.
“Well, then, what was it?”
“The sand in my shoes”, he said.
That's often the case in everyday life, also. It’s not always the big things that get us down; more often, it’s the tiny irritations.

What are some of life’s tiny irritations that get us down?
How can we focus on them during this Lent?
“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” 1 Peter 2:21
Making choices can be quite difficult, like which school to send the children to, what career to embark on, which person to enter into marriage with, right down to what food to eat and what clothes to wear. If those kinds of choices are difficult to make, then it may seem that the choice between life and death would be more straight-forward and clear-cut. After all, a choice between life and death would seem to have a forgone conclusion, i.e. the choice would be obviously for life.

But if it is such an obvious choice, then why would there be a choice at at all? We need to be aware of that sinful part in us that will make us look at the dark and slippery options that will eventually lead us to death, whether physical or spiritual death.
That is why in the 1st reading, Moses put before the people a choice between life and death, prosperity and disaster, blessing and curse.
And he was exhorting and urging the people, even like almost begging them, to choose life by obeying the voice of God and living in the love of the Lord. The other choice would be death and disaster, and there are no other choices in between. In the gospel, Jesus made it known what his choice for God would entail - He will accept suffering, rejection by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and finally be put to death. That doesn't sound very motivating; in fact, it sounded rather frightening. Yes, we are indeed frightened to lose our lives by giving of ourselves to others and sacrificing for others. If we choose to follow Jesus, then it means that we have to renounce ourselves and take up our cross, every day. That is indeed a difficult choice, but it is a choice that would bring us blessings and prosperity, life and love.

Friday after Ash Wednesday, 08-03-19
Isaiah 58:1-9 / Matthew 9:14-15

Jesus talks about fasting

"My disciples will fast after I go.”

The week after a Jewish wedding was a week of joy for the couple and their friends, to fast during this time of joy would be insane. Jesus compares the coming of God’s kingdom, which he announces and begins, to a Jewish wedding feast. Tb fast during this time of joy would be insane. There will be a period of fasting
after Jesus goes and leaves to his disciples the work of bringing God’s kingdom to fulfillment.

We are now in that period.
Just as Jesus went into the desert and fasted and prayed as he began the work of announcing and inaugurating God’s Kingdom so we need to solicit God’s special grace by fasting and praying as we carry out the work of bringing God’s kingdom to fulfillment
What have we done for the kingdom in the past? What are we doing for it now? What ought we to do for it, beginning today?
“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can do only a little. Do what you can." Sydney Smith

In the Roman Catholic Church, there are only two obligatory days of fasting. One is on Ash Wednesday, which was just two days ago, and the other is on Good Friday.

Yet the Church encourages the faithful to embrace this spiritual discipline of fasting especially during this season of Lent, and especially on Fridays.

This spiritual discipline of fasting is not just a religious or pious act but rather one that expresses a deep longing for conversion and repentance and for the healing grace of the Lord.

It is because we see how detestable our sins and transgression is that we pray and fasting is indeed a form of prayer. Also, when we see sin and evil happening around us, like oppression of the poor and violence on the weak, injustice and deceit, then all the more we must pray and fast. For the sin and the evil in the world, and even in the Church, let us take seriously our prayer and the discipline of fasting.

Then when we cry out to the Lord, He will answer; when we call out to Him, He will answer: I am here.

Saturday after Ash Wednesday, 09-03-19
Isaiah 58:9-14 / Luke 5:27-32

Jesus talks about his mission

 “I came for those who need help."

Recently a convict sent a prayer he wrote to a Jesuit newsletter called Twofold. A portion of it reads:
“Dear heavenly Father, I come to you a bent and broken man....
I come to you from prison, from a place that’s called death row
and ask that you take pity, Lord, on a convict’s wretched soul....

“Dry these tear-stained eyes; have mercy on this awful man, please hear my mournful cries.” Jack Joe Holland
It was for sincere, repentant people like Jack Joe that Jesus came.
Do we have the same sincere repentance for our sins that Jack Joe has for his? ‘The greatest of all faults
is to be conscious of none.” Thomas Carlyle
It is said that nothing is too difficult to achieve as long as we persevere and persist in it.

So, whether it is some kind of physical training to excel in a sport, or practising on a skill, or trouble-shooting and finding a solution to a problem, what is needed is perseverance and persistence.

The way to go about it is certainly not impossible or rocket-science but what is needed will be conviction and commitment.

In the 1st reading, what the Lord is telling His people is certainly something that is not beyond their reach or impossible to achieve.

It is the very basics of being human - doing away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, giving bread to the hungry, relief to the oppressed.

In return, what they will receive from the Lord is immeasurable - they will be like a watered garden, a spring of water, called "Breach-mender" and "Restorer of ruined houses".

In the gospel, Jesus called Levi to follow Him. It was not certainly not that impossible or too difficult to understand what Jesus meant by that.

But it would take a conviction and commitment on the part of Levi. And what he got in return was an unbounded joy that made him give a great reception in honour of Jesus.

In the season of Lent, we are called to practise the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

That is not too difficult or impossible. But we must have the conviction and commitment. And what we will receive from the Lord would be a joy that is so unbounded that like Levi we will also do all for the glory of God.