Monthly Archives: March 2014

5th Sunday of Lent – A Second Chance


Second Chance

Study:  Reflect on a time when you were given a second chance.  How did you feel?  How did you respond?

Pray:  Is there something in your past that has held you back from growing?  Ask the Lord for the grace to begin again.

Serve:  Is there someone you know who could use a second chance?  How can you help them to start over?

5th Sunday of Lent Readings

Fr. Andrew’s Homily Podcast

Anyone who plays games knows about second chances.  They happen in board games when we get to “roll again”, and they happen in sporting events when one team gets a break through a change in the action.  They are part of the game, and they usually bring plenty of excitement and interest.

A second chance usually gives the player new opportunities and hope.  When a second chance is offered, it provides for the possibility to correct past mistakes.  Second chances can revitalize a player’s efforts.  Simply put, they can breathe new life into the game.

In the Gospel today we hear how Jesus calls Lazarus back from the dead.  Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days, was loved by family and friends alike.  This love is witnessed in Jesus, whose tears reveal the depth of his concern.

I have always wondered how the story of Lazarus continued after this miracle.  What did people say every time they saw him?  Did people point to him as an example of the power of Jesus?  Did he wake up each day thanking God for another opportunity to love the people around him?

This miracle shows us a fundamental truth about God:  the Lord grants us second chances. Through the miracle of Jesus, Lazarus has been given back the gift of life.  This miracle provides the possibility for him to look back on the past and make a break with it.  In other words, his new life is an opportunity to begin again.

The story of Lazarus inspires us with hope.  God gives us second chances, too!  There are times when we may reflect on our lives, and we know that there is something that needs to change.  We need to let it “die” so that God can call us back to life.

Perhaps we have acted or spoken in a way that has been harmful to another.  Perhaps we have abused our bodies or put ourselves or others at risk through unwise choices.  Or maybe an event or decision in the past has kept us from living our lives in the present.

Whatever it is, God gives us a second chance.  Through his journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, Jesus makes it possible for us to break from sin and live in the light of God’s grace.  We can start again, living with the faith, hope, and love that can only come from Jesus Christ.

4th Sunday of Lent – A Life Worth Living

Beautiful Life - People

Study:  When have you sensed and recognized the precious value of life?  How did you respond?

Pray:  Offer prayers for those who struggle to embrace the gift of their lives.

Serve:  Is there someone nearby who is overcome by weakness, failure, or struggle?  How can you help?

4th Sunday of Lent Readings

The philosopher in me ponders a recurring question:  Why does God bother with us?  Why does the Lord of all creation seem to care about us?  Why does God have anything to do with us, especially when the universe is such a big place?  After all, why would God want to spend time caring for over seven billion people – aren’t there more important things to do?

Consider the role God plays in the readings this week:
1st – God chooses us according to our hearts.
Psalm – God shepherds us in our need.
2nd – God enlightens us in our darkness.
Gospel – God heals in our weakness.

In all four cases, God is acting on our behalf, despite our weakness, failings, and struggles.  The Lord continues to reach out to people, making hope possible in the midst of the challenges of life.  It does not seem to matter that people make mistakes or fall short of their abilities.  God still seems to care.

We are told that we are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), and we are told that God loved us so much he sent Jesus (John 3:16). What then can we learn about the Lord from these readings we hear today?

It seems to me that throughout these readings we discover that God values our lives, even when they are broken and limited by sickness and sin. God looks at us, with all our faults, and rejoices whenever we turn our hearts and minds to Jesus.

If the Lord finds joy in our lives, however feeble or faint, should we not do the same?  If God was willing to give us Jesus that we might have eternal life, should we not reflect on just how powerful this gift of life really is and act accordingly?

When we acknowledge that God acts for us because God loves us – completely, sincerely, and out of a thorough knowledge of all our sins – then we have hope.  We recognize that life is precious, and we find inspiration to make the most of this day, this moment, lest we lose even one opportunity to share our lives with God and one another.  With understanding comes this simple fact: we possess a life worth living – made by God, redeemed by God, and sustained by God!

Once we believe that Jesus died because he loves us, then all the actions we see in the readings today make sense.  May we embrace what God has done for us, and share with joyful hearts a life worth living.

3rd Sunday of Lent – Thirsty for Water

Living Water

Study:  When have you been in need for water?  When have you been in need of God’s grace?

Pray:  Is there something in your life that is parched and dry?  Ask the Lord for the Living Water that refreshes our souls.

Serve:  Is there someone you know who is withered and weak?  How can you bring them new strength and assistance?

3rd Sunday of Lent Readings

Fr. Andrew’s Homily Podcast

Imagine a tall glass of water.  You are tired and hot, and you hold the cool glass and start to drink.  Immediately, relief spreads through your throat and body, and as you set down the glass you say, “Ahhh!” and smile.

We all have experiences of being thirsty.  Maybe it is after a few slices of pizza or some extra salty snacks; perhaps it’s before an operation or medical checkup, when we are told that we cannot eat or drink anything from midnight on; it could be that we have just had a lot of exercise and are dehydrated.  Yet no matter what the situation is, we know the feeling when we are thirsty for water.

Our bodies need water.  Some studies tell us we  should be drinking a minimum of eight glasses a day.  This dependence on water is found in our survival; a person can live for weeks without food, but only a couple of days without water.

Our critical need for water becomes the source of the images found in the first reading and Gospel today.  Water is the subject for both Moses and Jesus.  Under God’s direction and guidance, Moses strikes the rock and provides water for the people in the desert.  Jesus, through his discussion with the woman at the well, reveals that he is the water that gives eternal life.

These readings remind us that God brings the Living Water to us.  In our need the Lord quenches our thirst as he did for the people in Meribah.  In our need the Lord comes to us as he did for the woman at the well.  For just as we need water to sustain our bodies, so too do we need Jesus Christ to give us life in this world and in the world to come.

Are you spiritually thirsty?  Is there something missing that you long for in your soul?  Is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control?  Just as our bodies respond to water with renewed strength, so also our thirst for “living water” reminds us that God offers us refreshment for our souls.  Lent is a perfect time to recognize our need for the Lord and ask for the grace and strength to face the challenges of today.

It is with water that we welcome new members into the Christian family through baptism.  It is with Holy Water that we sign ourselves with the Cross of Jesus Christ.  During the Easter season we will celebrate the sprinkling rite as we renew our own baptismal promises.  In all these cases, water becomes the medium to remind us of God’s presence.

Every time we pick up a glass of water we have the chance to remember how dependent we are on this simple substance.  May this reminder lead us more deeply into the mystery of God’s love for us and our need to recognize the Lord each day in the world around us.  May we drink deeply from the living water of Jesus Christ.

2nd Sunday of Lent – Promises

Sunrise Promise

Study:  Consider moments when you have made and kept a truly important promise.  How did that promise inspire and help you grow?

Pray:  Ask the Lord for the gift to trust in His promises.  Pray for guidance to follow Christ – even when it is difficult.

Serve:  How can you help someone who is striving to keep their promise of faith?

2nd Sunday of Lent Readings

Growing up, I earned money by baby sitting.  I watched a number of kids (that is, until I got a driver’s license…), and I learned several valuable lessons.  One of the things I discovered was not to promise to do something unless I was absolutely certain I could carry it out.  If something went wrong and I had to change plans, the kids would shout, “You PROMISED!!!!”

Promises have tremendous power.  A promise can inspire us, offering strength and hope in our moments of weakness.  Promises are a sign of our trust in the word of another.  We accept a promise when we believe that another person will live up to an agreement or contract.

There are two crucial elements about promises:  making them and keeping them.  Making a promise means that we invite another into a relationship of trust.  Keeping a promise means that we fulfill our agreement through our words and deeds.

Both of these elements are necessary.  If we only make promises (without fulfilling them) then our word is meaningless, and people are unable to count on us in a time of need.  Yet if our fear of action holds us back from making promises, then we will never be considered by others as approachable or accessible; we become distant and separated from other people.

In the Scriptures today we see God’s promises extended to Abram and Jesus.  Abram is promised God’s blessing and prosperity upon himself and his descendants.  Jesus, revealed through his transfiguration, is promised the glory that will be fulfilled through his death and resurrection.

For Abram and Jesus, life will not be easy.  Difficulties and sorrows will accompany their path through life.  Yet the promises revealed in these readings show that they will be sustained in their trials.  God’s promises will give both hope and life.

These promises belong to us as well.  Like Abram and Jesus, we know the struggle and challenge that can occur in life.  There are moments when we look to God’s promises to be made and kept, that we might persevere in our desire to live a good and holy life.  May we accept the Lord’s promise of strength and guidance, trusting that as we live according to our faith in Christ, we are confident that the Lord is near.

1st Sunday of Lent – Testing & Temptation

Desert Test

Study:  Where in my life have I fallen short and failed?  What lessons (however painful) have I learned?

Pray:  Ask the Lord for the grace and strength to face temptations.  Do not be afraid!  This is an opportunity to trust in the mercy and love of Jesus.

Serve:  Is there someone in your life who is struggling right now?  How can you help them through this time of testing?

1st Sunday of Lent Readings

Fr. Andrew’s Homily Podcast

Recall back to your school days.  No matter what grade or level of studies, all of us received tests as part of our education.

I remember once sitting in a class where some students were grumbling to the professor about an upcoming exam (I was angelically studying in a corner…).  The professor stopped the class to say, “Look, there are lots of reasons for exams, but there are two things that are important to me:  First, I need to know the limits of your knowledge.  Second, I want to see how you can apply what you have learned to other areas of study.”

Those two ideas stayed with me, for what is true for tests applies equally to life.  We experience tests all the time, and through these moments we discover amazing insights into our hearts.  Being tested (or tempted) reveals the limits of our strength, courage, patience, and trust; it also shows how we apply what we know (such as our faith in Christ) with what we encounter (trials, disturbances, disease, fear).

The Scriptures today offer two examples of testing which result in very different outcomes.  In the first reading, we see the weakness of Adam & Eve before the temptation of the serpent.  Their choices resulted in separation from God and one another.

In the Gospel we hear the encounter between Jesus and Satan in the desert.  The Devil tempts Jesus through three classic fears:  the fear of physical weakness, the fear of being powerless, and the fear of death.  These fears, which the Lord will ultimately face at his crucifixion, are rejected each time through Scripture and faith in God’s presence.

The lesson for us is clear.  Like Adam & Eve, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s grace.  Yet in our moments of weakness, doubt, and fear we can look to the life of Jesus for strength and new hope.  We, too, can trust that just as the Lord overcame his testing, we can also find guidance and direction through our faith in Christ in our time of need.

Once we trust that the Lord will be with us, we can face our testings and temptations with a new perspective.  These tests show us where we need to ask the Lord for help, revealing our limitations and teaching us to see our blind spots.  In this way our temptations are simply one more opportunity for us to recognize the Lord’s grace at work in our hearts.

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