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April 20-25: April 20 Monday: John 3:1-8: 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.’ 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/_ZU0SY5pF7E?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DBazRWSYfhGFvBAEXHvO0Cq
The context: Today’s Gospel describes the night visit of Nicodemus made to Jesus. Nicodemus was a rich Jewish rabbi and one of the seventy members of Sanhedrin. Later in his Gospel, John shows us how Nicodemus argued for a fair trial for Jesus (7:51) and how he cooperated with Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus (19:38). Nicodemus came to Jesus convinced that obeying the Mosaic Law and offering the prescribed sacrifices were enough for one’s eternal salvation.
Hence, Jesus plainly tells him that in order to be saved he has to be born again of water and the Holy Spirit (through Baptism). Jesus further explains that his disciples have two lives, namely natural and supernatural, and two births, namely a physical birth from one’s mother as her son or daughter, and a supernatural birth from God through Baptism as God’s child, a member of His family in the Church and an heir of Heaven. The supernatural birth is possible only when one is baptized into Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Life message: 1) We need to remember that rebirth by water and the Holy Spirit is a continuous process for Christians. For that process of rebirth to take place, we need, every day, to repent of our sins and try, with His grace, to renew our lives through prayer, our sacramental life, and meditative reading of the Bible, accompanied by corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In addition, we need to ask for God’s guidance. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
April 21 Tuesday (St. Anselm, Bishop) Cath Online: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-anselm/ : Jn 3:7-15: 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.’ 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can this be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/cYUYTHZ4hjE?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DBazRWSYfhGFvBAEXHvO0Cq;
The context: Today’s Gospel is the continuation of the visit of Nicodemus with Jesus. Nicodemus was a rich Jewish rabbi and one of the seventy members of Sanhedrin. He wanted to clarify whether the obeying of the Mosaic Law and the offering of prescribed sacrifices were enough for one’s eternal salvation. But Jesus used the occasion as a teachable moment, showing Nicodemus the necessity for a spiritual rebirth through the action of the Holy Spirit by means of the water of Baptism as an essential condition for one’s salvation.
Jesus teaches Nicodemus the effects the Holy Spirit produces in the souls of the baptized. We know the presence, force and direction of wind by its effects. It is so with the Holy Spirit, the Divine “Breath” (pneuma), given us in Baptism. In Hebrew and Aramaic, the scholars tell us, the same word pneuma means ‘spirit’, ‘breath’, and ‘wind’. We do not know how the Holy Spirit comes to penetrate our heart. But He makes His presence felt by the change in the conduct of the person who receives Him. Jesus further explains that he himself comes from Heaven, and, hence, his teaching is credible. Then, by comparing how God saved the snake-bitten Israelites through the symbol of bronze serpent, Jesus tells Nicodemus that” the Son of Man” is going to save mankind by death on the cross.
Life message: We need to adjust our lives, recognizing and making full use of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives: 1) We need to begin every day by asking for His Divine strength and guidance and end every day by asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins. 2) We need, as well, to pray for His daily anointing and for His gifts, fruits and charisms so that we may live as children of God. 3) We also need to throw open the shutters and let the Spirit enter the narrow caves in which we bury ourselves. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
April 22 Wednesday: John 3: 16-21: 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God. (Navarre Bible). USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/inbPBvP3C4E?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DBazRWSYfhGFvBAEXHvO0Cq
The context: Jesus explained God’s plan of salvation to Nicodemus by declaring that the story of Moses and the brazen serpent was a sign pointing to the Good News that God would show His love for mankind by subjecting His own Son to suffering and death in order to save them all: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This is the summary of the Gospel message of salvation through Christ Jesus. This is the Good News in the Gospels.
Today’s Gospel passage teaches us that our salvation is the free gift of a merciful God, given to us through Jesus, His Son. It explains that Jesus, the Son of God, became the agent of God’s salvation, not just for one sinful nation, but for the sinfulness of the whole world. Through John 3:16, the Gospel teaches us that God has expressed His love, mercy and compassion for us by giving His only Son for our Salvation. This tells us that the initiative in all Salvation is God’s love for man. As St. Augustine puts it: “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.” Augustine’s example also explains to us the universality of the love of God. God’s motive is Love and God’s objective is Salvation. Those who actually receive eternal life must believe in the Son and express that love in deeds.
Life message: 1) We need to respond to God’s love for us by loving and serving Him in others in whom He dwells. God’s love for us is unconditional, universal, forgiving and merciful. Let us make an earnest attempt to include these qualities in sharing our love with others during this Easter season. “In the evening of life you will be examined in love,” said St. John of the Cross. What he means by “love” is love expressed in deeds. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
April 23 Thursday (St. George, Martyr;( Cath Online: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-george/) St. Adalbert, Bishop, Martyr): Jn 3:31-36: 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony; 33 he who receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit; 35 the Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/wO3xzQZZy0I?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DBazRWSYfhGFvBAEXHvO0Cq
The context: In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus explains his Divinity to Nicodemus and his relationship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. It is Jesus’ Divinity which gives authority and veracity to his teachings and credibility to his promise of eternal life for his followers.
Jesus’ claims: 1) Jesus claims that, as Son of God, he “comes from Heaven.” Hence, he can speak of God and Heaven from his own experience, just as the native of a town can speak authoritatively about his town. That also means his teachings are reliable. 2) While the Jews believed that prophets were given only a small share in God’s Spirit, Jesus, as God’s only Son, shares the fullness of God’s Spirit and, hence, his teachings and promises are always reliable. 3) He gives eternal life to his followers. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.”
Life messages: 1) We need to seek the daily guidance and strengthening of the Holy Spirit living within us because it is He Who reveals Divine truths to us and Who gives us a better and clearer understanding of Scriptural truths taught by the Church.
2) Since our destiny depends on our own free daily choices, we need to choose Christ and his teachings and stand for Christ’s ideas and ideals.
3) We need to choose Jesus in order to choose Life. Before his death, Moses challenged Israel: “See I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil…. Therefore, choose life that you may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Joshua repeated the challenge in Joshua 24:14-15. We face that challenge every day. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
April 24 Friday (St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen) Cath Online: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-fidelis-of-sigmaringen/ : John 6:1-15: 1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 …15: USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Today’s Gospel describes one occasion when Jesus tried in vain to withdraw from the crowds at Capernaum. He traveled by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to a remote village called Bethsaida Julius, where there was a small grassy plain. But when Jesus stepped ashore, He was faced with a large crowd of people. This was the scene of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand as described in today’s Gospel. This is the only miracle, other than the Resurrection, that is told in all four Gospels, a fact that speaks of its importance to the early Church. Today’s Gospel passage invites us to become humble instruments in God’s hands by sharing our blessings with our brothers and sisters.
We may regard the incident in which Jesus multiplied loaves and fish in order to feed his hungry listeners, both as a miracle of Divine Providence and as a Messianic sign. The lesson for every Christian is that, no matter how impossible his or her assignment may seem, with Divine help it can be done because “nothing is impossible with God.” Jesus used as his starting point for the miraculous meal a young boy’s generous gift of all the food he had, perhaps to remind us that love is the prime requirement for salvation and selfishness blocks the life-giving action of the grace of God in us. The early Christian community especially cherished this story because they saw this event as anticipating the Eucharist.
Life message: 1) As Christians we need to commit ourselves to share all we have and are, and to work with God in communicating His compassion to all. God is a caring Father, but He wants our co-operation. That’s what the early Christians did, generously sharing what they had with the needy.
2) We and others in our time need to ask for the courage to share, even when we think we have nothing to offer. Whatever we offer through Jesus will have a life-giving effect in those who receive it. 3) We are shown two attitudes in the Gospel story: that of Philip and that of Andrew (John 6:7-9). Philip said, in effect: “The situation is hopeless; nothing can be done.” But Andrew’s attitude was: “I’ll see what I can do; and I will trust Jesus to do the rest.” We need to have Andrew’s attitude Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
April 25 Saturday (St. Mark, Evangelist): Mark 16:15-20: 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
Biography of St. Mark: Most of what we know about Mark comes directly from the New Testament. He is usually identified with the Mark of Acts 12:12. (When Peter escaped from prison, he went to the home of Mark’s mother). Paul and Barnabas took him along on the first missionary journey, but for some reason Mark returned alone to Jerusalem. It is evident from Paul’s refusal to let Mark accompany him on the second journey, despite Barnabas’s insistence, that Mark had displeased Paul. Later, Paul asks Mark to visit him in prison, so we may assume the trouble did not last long.
The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus’ rejection by humanity though he is God’s triumphant envoy. Probably written for Gentile converts in Rome—after the deaths of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark’s Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a “scandal”: a crucified Messiah. Evidently a friend of Mark (Peter called him “my son”), Peter is only one of the Gospel sources, others being the Church in Jerusalem (Jewish roots) and the Church at Antioch (largely Gentile).
Life messages: 1) We need to be proclaimers and evangelizers: In today’s Gospel Jesus gives his mission to all believers: “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” This mission is not given to a select few but to all believers. To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. “We preach with words, but we proclaim with our lives.” No one is excluded, and all are welcome. 2) We are also reminded that while the Lord gives the mission to all, Jesus does not expect us to rely only on our own resources to fulfill that mission. The mission is accompanied by the Divine power that is given to all those called upon to fulfill that mission. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/ )L/20