March 25-30: March 25: Feast Of Annunciation: Lk 1: 26-38: 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 ..38….
The context: Today’s Gospel tells us the story of the Annunciation, explaining how God began to keep the promise He had made to King David through the prophet Nathan, that David’s descendant would rule the world in an everlasting Kingdom.
The angel’s salutation to Mary: “Hail, full of grace,” reminds us of God’s words to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:12), and the angel’s salutation to Gideon, (Jgs 6:12). Mary is described as “full of grace,” filled with God’s favor and graciousness. She is the new Ark, a tent and temple. God is literally and physically in her, and, thus, she is the greater House of God promised to David. Mary’s question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” is natural. That is why the angel reminds Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.” He will “empower” her (“the Spirit will come upon you“), and “protect” her (“overshadow you“). In Luke’s narrative, Gabriel points out that the Child would not only be a distant grandson of David — he would be God’s own Son: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.” Mary does not require confirmation but responds in Faith. She agrees to carry out the Word Gabriel has addressed to her. Since Mary is really a true hearer and doer of the Word of God, she immediately makes a response with faith and trust. Mary thus became the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined. She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38). The Annunciation touches both the good news that God has become one like us so that we might become as God is, and the greater news that God, in the person of Jesus, has “paid the price” for achieving this end. When we pray the “Angelus” prayer three times a day, we gratefully remember the great gift of God’s Incarnation. When we pray the Rosary, we refer to the Incarnation fifty-three times — each time we pray the “Hail Mary” — and the first of the “Joyful mysteries” is the Annunciation, the Incarnation of Our Lord.
Life message: 1) We need to be humble instruments in the hand of God, trusting in His power and goodness and Mary shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life. St. Augustine reminds us that God who created us without our permission cannot save us without our active cooperation. Hence, let us cooperate in the fulfillment of God’s plan for us with Mary’s trusting Faith and humility. It is because Mary had brought Jesus to the world, flesh and blood. Can we also bring Jesus to others in our day-to-day lives? Like Mary who brought God to us as Jesus our Savior, it is our duty to carry Jesus and bring him to the lives of others around us in love, mercy, forgiveness and service. “Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you to magnify the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one to exult in Christ.” (St. Ambrose). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
March 26 Tuesday: 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 …35
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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
March 27 Wednesday: 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.
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. 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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
March 28 Thursday: Lk 11: 14-23: When the evil spirit has gone out, the dumb man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons”; 16 while others, to test him, sought from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; 22 but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil. 23 He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives the crushing reply of Jesus to the Scribes’ slanderous explanation of Jesus’ miracle, namely, that Jesus expelled devils by using the assistance of the leader of devils, Beelzebul.
Jesus refutes the false allegation raised by the Scribes against him with four counter-arguments. 1) A house divided against itself will perish, and a country engaged in civil war will be ruined. Hence, Satan will not fight against Satan by helping Jesus to expel his coworkers. 2) If Jesus is collaborating with Satan to exorcise minor demons, one must admit that the Jewish exorcists are doing the same. 3) Jesus claims that he is using the power of his Heavenly Father to evict devils, just as a strong man guards his house and possessions from the thief. 4) Finally, Jesus gives a crushing blow to his accusers as described in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 3:22-30), warning them that by telling blatant lies they are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit; their sins are unforgivable because they will not repent and ask for forgiveness.
Life messages: 1) We can be influenced by the evil spirit if we listen to him and follow him. Hence, we have to keep our souls daily cleansed and filled with the Spirit of God, leaving no space for the evil spirit to enter our souls. 2) If we disregard and disobey God’s word, we open the door to the power of sin and to Satan’s deception and control. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
March 29 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 …
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. 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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
March 30 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.”
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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19