Lent 3rd Week: March 16-21

March 16 Monday: Lk 4: 24-30: [23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, `Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'”] 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 ……30…USCCB video reflections:

The context: Today’s Gospel presents Jesus reacting with prophetic courage to the skepticism and criticism with which the people of Nazareth, his hometown, responded to his “Inaugural Address” in their synagogue that Sabbath.
Jesus’ reaction to his people’s skepticism: Jesus reacted to the negative attitude of the Nazarenes with the comment, “No prophet is accepted in his native place.”  Next, he referred to the Biblical stories of how God had blessed two Gentiles, while rejecting the many Jews in similar situations, precisely because those Gentiles were more open to the prophets than the Jewish people were.  First, Jesus told them of the Gentile widow of Zarephath, in Lebanon (1 Kings 17:7-24).  The Prophet Elijah stayed with her and her son during the three-and-a-half-year drought, fed them miraculously and revived her son from death.  Then Jesus described how Naaman, the pagan military general of Syria, was healed of leprosy by Elisha the prophet (2 Kings 5:1-19). Jesus’ words implied that, like the people of his hometown, the Israelites of those former days had been unable to receive miracles because of their disbelief.  Jesus’ reference to the unbelief of the Jews and to the stronger Faith of the Gentiles infuriated his listeners at Nazareth.  They rushed to seize Jesus and throw him over the edge of the cliff on which their town was built.  But Jesus escaped because “His hour had not yet come.
Life messages: 1) We need to face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism when we experience the pain of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, violated trust, neglect or abuse from our friends, families, or childhood companions.
2) Let us not, as the people in Jesus’ hometown did, reject God in our lives.  Are we unwilling to be helped by God, or by others?   Does our pride prevent us from recognizing God’s direction, help, and support in our lives, coming to us through His words in the Bible, through the teachings of the Church and through the advice and example of others?
3) We must have the prophetic courage of our convictions.  The passage challenges us to have the courage of our Christian convictions in our day-to-day lives in our communities, when we face hatred and rejection because of our Christian faith. (Fr. Tony) (

March 17 Tuesday (St. Patrick, Bishop= homily on next page):Video: Matthew 18:21-35: 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; 25 and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 …35USCCB video reflections:
The lessons taught by the parable: (1) We must forgive so that we may be forgiven. Jesus explains this truth after teaching the prayer, “Our Father.” He warns us, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14-15). As James states it later, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy” (Jas 2:13). Clearly, Divine and human forgiveness work together.
(2) We represent the greater debtor in the parable; that is, we owe God the ten thousand talents of the parable. We commit sins every day and, hence, we need God’s forgiveness every day. The sum total of all the offenses which our brothers and sisters commit against us is equivalent to the small debt of the second debtor in the parable, namely 100 denarii. Yet, shockingly and sadly, we are merciless towards our fellow human beings. The moral of Jesus’ story is that, as members of a community, we must treat one another as God has treated each of us. Here is a Divine call to throw away the calculator when it comes to forgiveness.  We must choose the more honorable path and forgive one another “from the heart.” We have been forgiven a debt beyond all human paying – the sin of man which God forgave through the willing, sacrificial death of His own Son. Since that is so, we must forgive others as God has forgiven us. Otherwise, we cannot hope to receive any mercy ourselves.
Life messages: 1) We need to forgive: Having experienced forgiveness at the hands of God and God’s people, we are then called to make it possible for others to experience the same forgiveness. Let us forgive the person who has wronged us before hatred eats away at our ability to forgive. 2) Forgiveness will not be easy, but God is there to help us. We can call on God’s help by offering that individual to God, not by sitting in judgment, but simply by saying, “Help so-and-so and mend our relationship.” We may never forget the hurt we have experienced, but we can choose to forgive. 3) We need to remind ourselves that with God’s grace we have already forgiven the one that hurt us. As life goes on we may remember the incident or occasion that was hurtful. Then let us offer the offender to God’s mercy and pray for God’s blessings on him or her. (Fr. Tony) (

March 17: (St. Patrick’s Day) 
St. Patrick was born to Roman parents in Banwen in Wales. So, he called himself both a Roman and a Briton. He was the son of a deacon named Calpornius and his mother was named Conchessa. Patrick was taken captive by the Irish marauders at about the age of 16. While in captivity for six years, he learned Irish (Gaelic), which would be essential for his later mission in Ireland. Since his master was a high priest of the Druids, Patrick had access to information about this religion from him, which might have proved very useful to him in his later mission, converting the Irish to Christianity. While Patrick was working as a shepherd in Ireland, he underwent a conversion experience and became a man of deep prayer. He managed to return to his native England and then went to France for training as a missionary. A few years after his ordination, Fr. Patrick was consecrated bishop at the age of 43, and the ecclesiastical authorities sent him to Ireland, probably in 432.
Before Patrick came to Ireland, there was a strong belief there in all kinds of gods, including the sun. Patrick tapped into these pagan beliefs and taught the people the true faith about the true God. He understood the Irish clan system. Hence, he knew that if the chieftains of the various clans became Christian, the rest of the clans would also. Patrick used every means possible to spread the word of God. The shamrock was the sacred plant of the Druids, and a legend says Patrick used it to teach the people about the Trinity. He worked night and day to bring the faith all over Ireland. He was a charismatic person who preached with authority and acted with miracles. We have two of Patrick’s writings, his Confessions in which we see his humility and his Letter to Coroticus in which we see the courage of his Christian convictions.
Contrary to popular belief, it was not St. Patrick who brought the Christian faith for the first time to Ireland. It was there already before him in the south and east of Ireland, probably due to traders and contacts with the continent. But it was St. Patrick who revitalized the faith of the local minority of Christians and converted the whole country to the Christian faith. First, he went to the west and north, where the faith had never been preached. He managed to obtain the protection of local kings and made numerous converts. He ordained many priests, divided the country into dioceses, held Church councils and founded several monasteries. All this groundwork done by St. Patrick later enabled the Church in Ireland to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe. Patrick died on March 17th, 493(?) and was buried in Ulster in County Down. As we celebrate the feast of this great missionary saint, let us ask ourselves whether we are grateful to God for the gift of faith which has been passed down to us. Do we, like Patrick, use every means to pass on this faith and spread it? St. Patrick’s life of solid spirituality and dependence on God should serve as a model for us to get our priorities correct. (Fr. Tony) LP

March 18 Wednesday (St Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop, Doctor of the Church): 
Video: Mt 5:17-19: 17 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. USCCB video reflections: 
The context: Today’s Gospel passage, taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, presents Jesus as giving the highest compliments to the Mosaic Law. Ironically, he himself would be condemned and crucified as a Law-breaker. Jesus says that the Old Testament, as the word of God, has Divine authority and deserves total respect. Its moral precepts are to be respected because they are, for the most part, specific, Divine-positive promulgations of the natural law. But Christians are not obliged to observe the legal and liturgical precepts of Old Testament because they were laid down by God for a specific stage in Salvation History.  In Jesus’ time, the Law was understood differently by different groups of the Jews to be 1) The Ten Commandments 2) The Pentateuch 3) The Law and the Prophets or 4) The oral (Scribal) and the written Law.
Jesus’ teaching: Jesus, and later Paul, considered the oral Law as a heavy burden on the people and criticized it, while honoring the Mosaic Law and the teachings of the prophets. At the time of Jesus, the Jews believed that the Torah (Law given to Moses), was the eternal, unchangeable, Self-Revelation of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that he did not come to destroy the Torah but to bring it to perfection by bringing out its inner meaning because he is the ultimate Self-Revelation of God, the Lawgiver. That is why the Council of Trent declared that Jesus was given to us, “not only as a Redeemer, in whom we are to trust, but also as a Lawgiver whom we are to obey” (“De Iustificatione,” can. 21).  Jesus honored the two basic principles on which the Ten Commandments were based, namely the principle of reverence and the principle of respect. In the first four commandments, we are asked to reverence God, reverence His holy Name, reverence His holy day and reverence our father and mother In the first four commandments, we are asked to reverence God, reverence His holy Name, reverence His holy day and reverence our father and mother. The next set of commandments instructs us to respect life, the marriage bond, one’s personal integrity and others’ good name, the legal system, another’s property and spouse and one’s own spouse. Jesus declares that he has come to fulfill all Divine laws based on these principles. By “fulfilling the law,” Jesus means fulfilling the purpose for which the Law was given: that is, justice (or “righteousness,” as the Scriptures call it – a word that includes a just relationship with God).
Life messages: 1) In obeying God’s laws and Church laws, let us remember these basic principles of respect and reverence. 2) Our obedience to the laws needs to be prompted by love of God and gratitude to God for His blessings. (Fr. Tony) (

March 19 Thursday (St. Joseph, Spouse of Blessed Virgin Mary): Sm 7:4-5, 12-14, 16; Rom 4:13-14, 18-22; Mt 1: 16, 18-21, 24; Lk 2:41-51): Video: ST. JOSEPH IN THE HOLY BIBLE: We have the description of St. Joseph only in the Gospels of Mathew and Luke. They present him as Joseph, the just man and Joseph, the dreamer
(A) Joseph, the just man: (Matthew. 1:19). In the Biblical sense, a just man is one who faithfully does his duties to God, to lawful authorities and to his fellow human beings.
(1)-Joseph did his duties to God faithfully by obeying His laws revealed through Moses, through his king and through his foster son Jesus.
  1. He obeyed the Mosaic laws: i) by circumcising and naming Jesus on the 8th day, ii) by presenting Mary with her child in the Temple for the purification ceremony, iii) by making Jesus “son of the Law,” bringing him to the Temple of Jerusalem for the feast of Passover at the age of twelve.
  2. He obeyed his King’s law by taking his pregnant wife Mary to Bethlehem for the census ordered by the Emperor.
  3. He obeyed Jesus by respecting his desires and opinion. (Lk.2: 49)
(2)-Joseph did his duties to others faithfully:
  1. to his wife by giving her loving protection in spite of his previous suspicion about her miraculous pregnancy. He could have divorced her. .” Pope St. John Paul II: St. Joseph protects Mary “discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand.”
  2. to Jesus by training him in his trade, in the Law of Moses and in good conduct (Lk. 2:52).
c) to his neighbors by being an ideal carpenter and good neighbor.
(B)- Joseph, the dreamer (like Joseph in the O.T.)
Dreaming in the Old Testament was one-way God used to communicate His will to men. Joseph received instructions from God through three dreams: i) “Do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife” (Mt.1:20); ii) “Get up, take the Child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave” (Mt. 2:13); iii) “Get up, take the Child and his mother, and go back to the land of Israel” (Mt.5:20).
Life Messages: 1) We need to lead saintly lives by becoming faithful in little things, as St. Joseph was. “Bloom where you are planted” was the favorite advice of St. Francis de Sales. Let us love our profession and do good to others. 2) We need to consult God daily in prayer to know His will and to do it. 3) We need to be just, as St. Joseph was, by “giving everyone his or her due.” 4) We need to raise our families in the spirit of the Holy Family and to be responsible, God-fearing, ideal parents like Joseph and Mary. 5) Let us become protectors like St. Joseph, by keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that builds up and tear down!  We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!” (Pope St. John Paul II). ( L/19 USCCB video reflections: (Fr. Tony) (

March 20 Friday: Mk 12:28-34: Another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”  29 Jesus answered, “The first is, `Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; 33 34 … USCCB video reflections
The context: A scribe who believed in both the written Law and the oral tradition was pleased to see how Jesus had defeated the Sadducee who had tried to humiliate him with the hypothetical case of a woman who had married and been widowed by seven husbands in succession.  Out of admiration, the scribe challenged Jesus to summarize the most important of the Mosaic Laws in one sentence.  In the Judaism of Jesus’ day there was a double tendency: to expand the Mosaic Law into hundreds of rules and regulations and to condense the 613 precepts of the Torah into a single sentence or few sentences.
Jesus’ novel contribution: Jesus gave a straightforward answer, quoting directly from the Law itself and startling all with his profound simplicity and mastery of the Law of God and its purpose.  He combined the first sentence of the Jewish Shema prayer from Deuteronomy 6:5: … Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” with its complementary law from Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Thus, Jesus proclaims that true religion is to love God both directly and as living in our neighbor.  Jesus underlines the principle that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves because both of us bear God’s image. For, to honor God’s image is to honor both Him Who made it and Him Whom it resembles. Besides, our neighbors, too, are the children of God our Father, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus.  Love for our neighbor is a matter, not of feelings, but of deeds by which we share with others the unmerited love that God lavishes on us.  This is the agape love for neighbor that God commands in His Law. Jesus then uses the parable of the Good Samaritan, as reported in Luke’s Gospel, to show them what God means by “neighbor.”
Life Messages: 1) We need to love God whole-heartedly: Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, means that we should place God’s will ahead of our own, seek the Lord’s will in all things and make it paramount in our lives. It also means that we must find time to adore Him, to present our needs before Him and to ask Him pardon and forgiveness for our sins. 2) God’s will is that we should love everyone, seeing Him in our neighbor.  This means we have to help, support, encourage, forgive, and pray for everyone without regard to color, race, gender, age wealth, social status, intelligence, education or charm. (Fr. Tony) (

March 21 Saturday: Lk 18: 9-14: 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even  like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who  humbles himself will be exalted.” USCCB video reflections: 
The context: The main theme of today’s Gospel is that true humility must be the hallmark of our prayers.  However, the central focus of today’s parable is not prayer, but rather pride, humility and the role of grace in our salvation.  The parable was mainly intended to convict the Pharisees who proudly claimed they obeyed all the rules and regulations of the Jewish law, while they actually ignored the Mosaic precepts of mercy and compassion.  Through this parable of Jesus, Luke was reminding his Gentile listeners that God values the prayer of any humble and contrite heart.
In the parable, Jesus tells us about two men who went to pray, a Pharisee and a tax-collector.  The Pharisee stood in the very front of the Temple, distancing himself from his inferiors, and explained to God his meticulous observance of the Mosaic Law, at the same time despising the publican.  But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”  Jesus declared that only the humble tax-collector went home justified.
 Life messages: 1) We need to evict the Pharisee and revive the publican in each one of us.  There is a big dose of the Pharisee’s pride in us and a small dose of the tax-collector’s humility.  Hence, we have to make a pilgrimage from pride to humility, realizing the truth that if we are not sensitive to other people, we are not sensitive to God.
2) Let us have the correct approach in our prayer life.  For most of us, prayer means asking God for something when we are in need.  We conveniently forget the more important aspects of prayer: adoration, praise, contrition and thanksgiving.  If we have forgotten God through our years of prosperity, how can we expect him to take notice of us when something goes wrong?  Yet, even there His mercy welcomes us.  Our day’s work and our day’s recreation, if offered for the honor and glory of God, are prayers pleasing in His sight. (Fr. Tony) (