5-Mar-2018 Dear Friend, Right in the middle of Lent we are called to rejoice! The cause of our joy is the fact that our God is so good that he continues to love us in spite of our sinfulness. No doubt the Israelites were banished into exile because of their sins. Our God must be a crazy God because He forgives us and blesses us umpteen times even when we go against Him! We celebrate today His goodness and mercy, which is greater than our sinfulness. Have a thanksgiving weekend celebrating his unconditional love! Fr. Jude Sunday Refl.: 4th Sun. of Lent ‘God loved the world so much he gave us his son!’ 11-Mar-2018Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2: 4-10; John 3: 14-21; The reading from the Book of Chronicles lists the sinfulness of the people who had abandoned God and polluted the house of God with their abominations. God kept sending his messengers to remind his people to come back to him but they refused to listen and scoffed their message. This went on for the full seventy years of their exile. A new era began with Cyrus the king of Persia. The transition began with the Passover of Egypt. Now that their journey was complete the Israelites celebrate the Passover anew and the feast of the unleavened bread accompanying it. The manna that sustained them during the journey ceased to be available to them. Like the Israelites, we, the people of God will begin with the Passover and will end with the Passover commemorating God’s loving compassion and care for us sinners.
Forgive and be ForgivenSome time ago a woman wrote a letter to Ann Landers describing the terrible relationship that once existed between her and her brother. It took the death of their father to get her to forgive him and to treat him as a brother again. Sometime after their reconciliation, her brother had a heart attack and died in her arms. She ends her letter with this moving paragraph. “I am grateful for the years we had together, but I could scream when I think of all the years we missed because we were too bull-headed and short-sighted to try to get along. Now he is gone and I am heartsick.” Today’s gospel is an invitation to review the relationships in our lives and to bring them into line with Jesus’ teaching.Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’ Nicodemus is at the centre of today’s gospel. We can learn by reflecting on Nicodemus and how he grew in his relationship with Jesus. He began by showing an interest and wanting to know about Jesus. We see him as a genuine seeker of the truth and this gradually leads him to become a disciple of Jesus. The gospel of John shows him as a seeker, moving progressively from the darkness to the light. In today’s gospel we hear Jesus speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus says: “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert so that those who believe may have eternal life in him.” Jesus so adapted the image of the bronze serpent that it comes alive in his own person, as he hangs agonizingly upon the cross. Both the bronze serpent and Jesus crucified symbolize ‘Sin’. “To believe” means that we see the terrible effects of our evil in Jesus and so accept sin’s toll on ourselves. Our own selves cut their shape upon Jesus, yet Jesus’ peace and grace cure and transform our weakness. God so loved the world, that through his Son’s death Light comes into the world. Light allows us to see ourselves, others and our entire world as it is in Christ! When we choose goodness we are choosing Jesus. When we look at the real world of today and prayerfully seek God’s will and courageously follow it, we will come to the realization that “salvation is ours through faith. This is not our own doing, it is God’s gift. When God has thus “in Christ Jesus raised us up,” we must rejoice. This day will rightly become “Rejoice” Sunday. Inability to ForgiveThe singing career of Grammy award winner Marvin Gaye ended in tragedy on April 1, 1983. He was shot to death by his own father. Gaye’s close friend David Ritz wrote Gaye’s biography a year later. He called it Divided Soul. Gaye was indeed a divided soul. He was part artist and part entertainer, part sinner and part saint, part macho man and part gentleman. Gaye’s childhood was tormented by cruelty inflicted upon him by his father. Commenting on the effect this had on Gaye, Ritz says of his friend: “He really believed in Jesus a lot, but he could never apply the teaching of Jesus on forgiveness to his own father. In the end it destroyed them both.” That story of an unforgiving father and son contrasts sharply with the story of the forgiving father and son, which Jesus tells in the gospel. And the contrast between the two stories spotlights a growing problem in modern society. It is the inability or unwillingness of people to forgive one another. Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’ Coming out into the LightThe coming of light ought to be good news for those living in darkness, Sadly this is not always the case. The Simon Community runs night shelters for the down-and outs. Each night some volunteers bring soup and sandwiches to those who, for one reason or another, do not want to come to the shelter. They go looking for them in derelict buildings and such places. The most important aid they take with them is a flash lamp, because often there is no light where the down-and-outs live. Most of the down-and-outs welcome the arrival of the volunteers. But some (for example, those on the run from the police) refuse to have anything to do with them. The volunteers can tell at once which group they are dealing with by their reaction to the light. Some welcome the light. Others fear it because it shows up the darkness in their lives –the darkness of alcoholism, misery, hopelessness and crime. That’s how it was with the coming of Christ’s light. Christ did not come to judge people but to save them. He came bearing a light –the light of truth, goodness and salvation from sin. Some welcomed his light, but others rejected it because it showed up the evil in their lives.Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’ Mutiny on the BountyMutiny on the Bounty is one of the most adventurous maritime episodes in history. Captain Bligh sailed in the ship to Tahiti in search of breadfruit plant for the West Indies. He was proud and ruthless, and many of his crew were against him. While returning from Tahiti, most of the sailors rebelled against him and a mutiny broke out. The captain and 17 of his sympathizers were forced into a small boat and were left on the high sea. The mutineers, 15 of them with the ship Bounty went to Tahiti. Gathering with them some men, women and children, they reached a small Island called Pitcairn in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and South America. Afraid that they might be found out if they had the ship, they saved whatever they could carry and burnt the ship. This group of undesirable perpetuated their evil lives of drinking, revelry and murder. Within ten years of their landing on this island only one survived. His name was John Adams, and he was no better than the rest who died. However, he had to take on the responsibility of the Island’s folk. One day as he was checking the goods salvaged from the ship before it was burnt, he found an old Bible. Though he was not interested in it, it was the only book on the Island, and he began reading it. The Word of God began to work in him, and eventually, he changed his, life and became a new creation in Christ. He built a school cum church and began to lead the children in Christian experience. For years the only book they had was the Bible. Years later, a strong Christian community was formed on this Island. The warm and pleasant behaviour of the people on this Island attracted the ships sailing through the Pacific. In 1980 when a census was taken, all the inhabitants on the Island were Christians.John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’ Coming out into the LightThe shortest journey to the light is by doing the good/right thing. The following true story beautifully illustrates this. In the Lithuanian city of Kovno there lived a Jewish professor. Though he had been an agnostic all his life, the professor began to be more and more troubled by the sad, neglected condition of the Jewish graveyard in the city. Since the holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis and the harassment of them by the Soviets, no one had taken care of their graves. So out of the goodness if his heart, the professor himself decided to do so. Whether or not he was aware that tending graves is a ‘mitzvah’, that is a traditional good deed, we do not know. In any case, the old man acquired a spade, a sickle and shears, and began the job of making the graveyard worthy of those buried in it. At first he was on his own, but as some weeks went by other Jews joined him in the work. Most of these were once observant Jews but had become agnostic like the professor. Eventually there were some two hundred of them, all doing a good thing. As they worked a beautiful thing happened. Their Jewish faith came alight in them. Practically all of them became observant Jews once more. -We have to accept that there is darkness in our lives and in our world. How many of our deeds are done in the light? How many of them could bare the scrutiny of the light? Alas, we disciples of Jesus sometimes prefer the darkness to light.Flor McCarthy in “New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies” Love is: The will to extend oneself for nurturing spiritual growthScott Peck, the author of the book: The Road Less Travelled, defines love as, “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own and another’s spiritual growth.” God gave His Son to us so that we may have eternal life. Therefore the love of God is a life-giving love. A young lad was being swept out to sea. A man risked his life by swimming through the treacherous riptide to save the boy. After the boy recovered from his harrowing experience, he said to the man, “Thank you for saving my life!” The man looked into the boy’s eyes and said, “That’s okay kid! Just make sure your life was worth saving.”John Pichappilly in “The Table of the Lord” Gift of GraceDostoyevsky tells the story of a woman who found herself in hell and felt she did not belong there. She could not bear the suffering and cried out in agony for the mercy of God. God listened and was moved with pity. “If you can remember one good deed you did in your lifetime, I will help you,” said God. Searching her brain, she remembered that once she had given a starving neighbour an onion. God produced the onion complete with stem. The woman grabbed the onion, and God began to pull her out of hell. But others, damned with her, began to grab hold of the woman’s skirts to be lifted out, too. The stem of the onion held and would have saved them all, but the woman began to kick and scream for them to let go, Trashing about trying to dislodge her friends was too much for the onion and the stem snapped, plunging them all back into the depths of hell.John Pichappilly in “Ignite your Spirit” May we relish His unconditional love and be witnesses of that love to others! Fr. Jude Botelho botelhoj...@gmail.com PS. The stories, incidents and anecdotes used in the reflections have been collected over the years from books as well as from sources over the net and from e-mails received. Every effort is made to acknowledge authors whenever possible. If you send in stories or illustrations I would be grateful if you could quote the source as well so that they can be acknowledged if used in these reflections. These reflections are also available on my Web site www.NetForLife.net Thank you.