2nd Sunday in Lent
1st Reading: Gn 12:1-4a:
The Lord said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” Abram went as the Lord directed him.
2nd Reading: : 2 Tm 1:8b-10:
Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Gospel: Mt 17:1-9:
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The Call of Abram at the age of 75. Such call proceeds from God’s holiness, on his initiative, and not on our merits. In the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor, some of the apostles are granted a glimpse of the brilliance of God’s holiness. Abram was invited to leave his land and people for a new land that was yet to be shown to him. Between his leaving what he had and reaching what would be shown in future is the liminal land of the unknown and the scary. Thus, responding to God’s call involves a leap into darkness, trusting in God’s holiness. Abram did it and thus defined faith for all generations to come. “Here I am, O Lord; I come to do your will.” Meditate on God’s holiness and your own transience.
1st Reading: Dn 9:4b-10:
“Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land.
Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced even to this day: we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the countries to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you. O Lord, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you. But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness! Yet we rebelled against you and paid no heed to your command, O Lord, our God, to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.”
Gospel: Lk 6:36-38:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
It is so much easier to see the mistakes of others than our own. We are quick to criticize others and are so slow in admitting our own faults. A beautiful poem by an anonymous poet goes: “Oho!” said the pot to the kettle; “Not so! Not so!” kettle said to the pot; “You are dirty and ugly and black! Tis your own dirty image you see, sure no one would think you were metal, for I am so clean – without blemish except when you’re given a crack or blot that your blackness is mirrored in me.” The season of Lent is a time for self-examination. That is what the Daniel in our first reading does. He makes a confession of the sins of his people. Like Daniel we have to kneel before God and beg for forgiveness and mercy.
Sts. Perpetua and Felicity
1st Reading: Is 1:10, 16-20:
Hear the word of the Lord, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken!
Gospel: Mt 23:1-12:
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Isaiah in the first reading addresses Judah and her rulers in a very sarcastic way. He calls them “rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah!” He calls them and their holy city of Jerusalem no better than the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah! The Prophet warns them that if they do not repent they would be punished like Sodom and Gomorrah. Christ, too, has stern words to the teachers of the Law in our Gospel. He criticizes them for their hypocrisy and their hardness of heart! The disciples are warned not to imitate the ways of the Pharisees and scribes who presumed that they are holier than the rest of the people.
Christ tells his disciples to be humble, to honestly admit that they are sinners in need of forgiveness. The leaders of Judah in the time of Isaiah were callously unrepentant, so, too, were the leaders of Judea in the time of Jesus self-righteous. May it not be so with us today! All, without exception must humbly kneel and beg for mercy. Bishops, priests, religious, sisters, church leaders, all of us must humble ourselves before God. Even the mighty and powerful must kneel at the confessional.
St. John of God
1st Reading: Jer 18:18-20:
The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said, “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word.” Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them.
Gospel: Mt 20:17-28:
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Have you ever been betrayed? Have you ever been accused and punished of wrongdoing you were not guilty of? If you have, and most likely we all have, congratulations! Being Christian is being open to the prospect of betrayal. Jeremiah experienced such a betrayal. He was sent to warn Jerusalem about the impending trouble that would befall Jerusalem. For all his efforts he was made to suffer. Jeremiah would complain to Yahweh that for all his faithfulness he had to endure terrible persecution. Jesus, too, in the Gospel will tell his disciples that he would be betrayed.
At each Eucharist we will remember that painful event as the priest says “On the night he was betrayed and entered willingly into his passion.” This betrayal would be most painful for it would come from one of his own disciples, Judas. When, therefore, you get betrayed be consoled. You will be having the privilege of sharing the cup Jesus asked of the two brothers, James and John! And when you do get betrayed, know that Jesus knows what you have to go through!
St. Frances of Rome
1st Reading: Jer 17:5-10:
Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, But stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, To reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds.
Gospel: Lk 16:19-31:
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”
“More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” Jeremiah asks today. We have to examine our hearts. No, I am not saying we go to our Cardiologists today, although you may do so, of course. But we have to examine our hearts, that is, what is it that we love? What is of value to us? Our hearts can easily be deceived. We can fall in love with the glitter of gold. Oh so many fall into this trap! “The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10).” For others it could be power! And as the British historian, Lord Acton, so aptly said “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!”
Still for others it would be pleasures of the flesh. Any one of these cardinal temptations can so corrupt the heart that other more important values can be sacrificed. Honor, family, people can be thrown out of the window. The rich man in today’s Gospel fell into the third trap – pleasure. He had good food! He enjoyed his food! And he forgot his neighbor. His heart had hardened. One who does not see the misery of his neighbor we call heartless.
1st Reading: Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a:
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him. One day, when his brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem, Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem. Get ready; I will send you to them.” So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan. They noticed him from a distance, and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.
They said to one another: “Here comes that master dreamer! Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here; we could say that a wild beast devoured him. We shall then see what comes of his dreams.” When Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from their hands, saying, “We must not take his life. Instead of shedding blood,” he continued, “just throw him into that cistern there in the desert; but do not kill him outright.” His purpose was to rescue him from their hands and return him to his father. So when Joseph came up to them, they stripped him of the long tunic he had on; then they took him and threw him into the cistern, which was empty and dry.
They then sat down to their meal. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, balm and resin to be taken down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.
Gospel: Mt 21:33-43, 45-46:
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “”Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”” They answered him, “”He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.””
Jesus said to them, “”Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster” sayeth Shakespeare’s Iago to Othello. Out of jealousy Iago plots the murder of his friends, and out of jealousy Othello murders his wife, Desdemona. Indeed, jealousy is a dangerous passion as it poisons the heart of man and drives him to do dastardly deeds! The brothers of Joseph were so jealous of the him that they eventually got rid of him by selling him for 20 pieces of silver, the price of a boy slave! They were jealous of the love of their father Jacob had for Joseph.
Jacob will lose his beloved son, Joseph, because of the jealousy. Joseph’s experience was a prophecy. Jesus, the true beloved Son of the Father, would also be sold. The jealous brothers of Joseph will, in the time of Jesus, be the jealous and malicious tenants in the parable of Jesus in today’s Gospel. Out of jealousy the priests and Pharisees will plot the death of Jesus. They will be ably assisted by one of the 12, Judas, who will sell his Master for 30 pieces of silver, the price of an adult slave! Be careful, then with the green-eyed monster called jealousy! Jealous persons can become so consumed with this green-eyed monster as to sell even their own loved ones. Beware!
1st Reading: Mi 7:14-15, 18-20:
Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, That dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old; As in the days when you came from the land of Egypt, show us wonderful signs. Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins; You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and grace to Abraham, As you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.
Gospel: Lk 15:1-3, 11-32:
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable. “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”‘ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”
Jesus told his most famous parable, the “Parable of the Prodigal Son,“ as a response to the criticism of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that he was too friendly to tax collectors and sinners. Jesus’ compassion for violators of the letter of law, like the prodigal son, truly deserved punishment. The younger son expected to be treated like a slave no longer as a son. The elder son expected his Father to punish this erring son, whom he no longer recognized as his brother. But the Father does the unconscionable (to the self-righteous) by forgiving the repentant sinner. The action of the Father went against the sense of justice of the elder son and the Pharisees!
The Father who has welcomed back the repentant son also invites the elder son, however, to adopt his stance of mercy. The Father demonstrates his joy at the return of the lost son! Oh the unfathomable mercy of God! How God seeks for the lost! Jesus will reveal the full extent of that love of the Father when he would ascend his throne, the cross, and dispense mercy to the good thief in Calvary even as the other thief (the “elder son“) would fail to recognize the one who could save him! May we always have the courage to go back to the Father; may we always rejoice at the return of sinners to the Father.